MP WRITES: I worry about impact of spending cuts

Chancellor George Osborne.
Chancellor George Osborne.

It was the Budget last week. It seems to have been forgotten about already.

Perhaps that was inevitable, given how close we are to the General Election.

The Chancellor mentioned the Battle of Agincourt more often than he mentioned the North East.

As I write this, the House of Commons is taking all of the stages of the Finance Bill – the piece of legislation that actually puts into law the provisions from the Budget – through Parliament in one day.

Pushing legislation through in one day doesn’t lend itself to calm and considered evaluation and scrutiny of government legislation.

So how does the Budget affect you? In terms of the difference you will see in the next few days, probably not a huge amount, to be honest.

The Chancellor took a penny off the pint of beer and as somebody who enjoys a drink of Cameron’s Strongarm, that was welcome, although I’m not sure whether drinkers will actually see a fall in the price of a pint.

As somebody who wants to see the North East power ahead as a great region with huge potential, I was disappointed that the Chancellor mentioned the Battle of Agincourt more often than he mentioned the North East.

In the Red Book, the document which gives all the facts and figures of the Budget, the North East was not mentioned, replaced by the term “Northern Powerhouse”, which seems to indicate that any scraps of investment left over from London and the South East will be spent in Greater Manchester, rather than the actual North East.

So in day-to-day changes, I don’t think people will see much change from the Budget.

However, what was truly striking was the Chancellor’s plans for public spending after the general election.

In this current Parliament, there have been cuts to public spending in every year: some years greater than others, but the year-on-year growth in real resource has been down in every year.

However, according to George Osborne’s plans, spending cuts in the first two years of the next Parliament – 2016-17 and 2017-18 – will be four times bigger than the cuts this year and about double the amount of cuts we’ve seen in the worst years since 2010.

As the independent Office for Budget Responsibility said, the Chancellor’s Budget plans will mean “a sharp acceleration” in cuts to public spending, meaning deeper cuts in the next three years than the last five years.

Given what has happened since 2010, with Hartlepool and the North East bearing a lot of the cuts, with Hartlepool Borough Council seeing a 40 per cut to its budget since 2010, I worry about what impact this spending plan will have for our area.

What does it mean for the local police force? At a time of an ageing population, what impact will it have on social care budgets? Given growing uncertainty in the world, especially from the likes of Russia, what will be the impact on Britain’s defence budget and our Armed Forces? This sort of spending plan would have negative implications for Hartlepool, the North East and Britain.

This is my last column before Parliament is formally “dissolved” and the general election is formally called.

All general elections are important, but the one to be held on Thursday, May 7, could be significant in charting the country down very different courses, depending upon who wins and forms the next Government.

There is a huge choice and significant stake in terms of what the future of our country looks like for our children and grandchildren.

Regardless of your political persuasion, I hope that you will exercise your democratic right and vote on 7 May.