In Westminster, yesterday evening, 27 November, York Central’s MP, Rachael Maskell, spoke about how the Chancellor’s budget offered people in York no support or relief from the harsh policies of the Conservative Government.
Ms Maskell pointed out that after seven years of austerity seeing a decrease in growth, productivity and wages the Chancellor offered no hope to York, which during this time had been significantly affected. Soaring house prices had seen a dramatic increase in the number of people unable to access housing, decreases in school funding has seen York schools becoming the worst funded schools in the country, the local economy is threatened with job losses, like with the barracks closures, while there is little growth and Brexit uncertainty is risking further employment security. She also highlighted how the Government’s promise at the last budget to consult on business rates had yet to take place, while local businesses are seriously challenged by the current rates.
She focused her speech on the impact of austerity on the NHS and services to the elderly by highlighting the failed funding made available to health and care.
Rachael Maskell MP says:
“After 7 years, the Government’s economic policies have failed our services and forced many of the most vulnerable people into hardship, while failing to provide a fiscal stimulus for economic growth. Instead we have seen growth, productivity and wages slump, while interest rates and the cost of living has risen.
“In York, we know how hard it is for people to find somewhere to live that they can afford, the scale of rationing of healthcare and how hard it is to get the vital support that older people and disabled people need. The Budget was an opportunity to address this injustice, and yet it brought no solutions to today’s crisis.
“In the sixth richest country in the world we have 4 million people living in poverty, including many children. Here in York record numbers of families are seeking the support of foodbanks. We are quickly approaching winter and we have people living in our city making the unenviable decision whether to pay their rent, heat their home or put food on the table and the Government has turned its back on them”.
This is how Hansard recorded Ms Maskell’s speech.
“Today’s debate on the Budget started with a focus on foreign affairs but, in the light of the fact that we are watching our economy rapidly contract as a result of the chaotic Brexit this Government are presiding over, it is right that I focus on the NHS, not least due to the Foreign Secretary’s failed promise that the NHS would receive £350 million every week—he even had the nerve to come to my constituency with that bus to announce that, but my constituents had the good sense to ignore him.
The unravelling Budget statement has demonstrated that the Chancellor’s insistence, despite seven years of economic failure, on continuing with austerity, which continues to fail services and communities, is staggering. Growth—down. Productivity—down. And wages—down. Austerity is hurting so many people: wage cuts for our public servants, social security cuts for disabled people, and 4 million people living in poverty, including children. Many of them are without a home, many are on the streets, and far too many children and adults are suffering mental distress—and there was nothing in the Budget to support them.
York is particularly hard hit. Rocketing house prices mean that people need nine and a half times their wages to buy a property, and average wages fall far below the national average. Buying a house has now been made worse by this Budget. Renting privately is out of reach, and the number of homes for social rent is falling, while homelessness is rising.
I must ask why York schools have moved from being the seventh worst funded to the very worst funded, and why the most economically deprived areas in York are receiving the greatest cuts—yes, less money. York kids deserve the very best, and I will fight for their futures. As for jobs and infrastructure, the scale of private and public sector cuts is hurting York. I urge the Government to intervene: stop the closure of our barracks as a first step—there are 1,600 jobs there that we urgently need.
I also have to ask those on the Treasury Bench what happened to the business rate consultation we were all promised at the last Budget. While York traders work hard, we cannot ignore the severe challenges that business rates present. It is a broken system, and page 188 of the industrial strategy does not assist.
Now, back to the NHS. The Government have placed York in the capped expenditure process. There needs to be an acknowledgment that the funding formula, historically and currently, leaves a £20 million to £25 million funding gap in the health economy. That is after severe rationing, smart prescribing and a move to non-hospital patient case management. The leaders in the health economy have done everything to stem the costs, yet, before the winter, the money has run out, and the trust is in the distressed cash regime, having to take out a loan, with interest, to pay back who knows when or how. We need to make sure this issue is addressed because, under the NHS constitution, they cannot make further cuts. The issue in York is an ageing demographic with co-morbidities—frail people needing vital urgent care. Will the Minister use some of the paltry £2.8 billion announced for the NHS in the Budget to address this crisis?
There was no mention of social care last Wednesday from the Chancellor, when 1.9 million older people are living in poverty. Economic and health inequality are linked. Please take care of our older people; it is a national scandal that, in the sixth richest country in the world, more than 40,000 older people are dying each year of the cold. These precious lives, well lived, have paid into the system. These lives could be saved.
If this Government have no capacity to help the poor and the vulnerable, or to meet need and to invest in our services and our economy, there is one answer: Labour”.