There was a mixed reaction to Philip Hammond’s Budget on Wearside.
Highlights of the Chancellor’s announcements yesterday included the introduction of T-levels – technical qualifications, an alternative to A-levels – for 16- to 19-year-olds, a rise in National Insurance contributions for the self-employed and an additional £2billion in funding for social care over the next three years for England.
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson said: “This Budget should have been about addressing the dominating issues facing our country, from a low-pay economy, to correctly funding our crisis-ridden NHS and supporting schools which are facing severe cuts.
“Yet, the Tories have decided to hit the self-employed with tax hikes, along with making choices that only give paltry sums of money to the NHS and social care services and redirected money to their vanity free school and grammar school projects.
“We may have a new Tory Chancellor, but it is much the same as before.”
Sunderland City Council portfolio holder for health, housing and adult services, Coun Graeme Miller was disappointed with the Chancellor’s commitment on social care: “The ongoing financial crisis affecting local authorities and their delivery partners means they are continually forced into very difficult choices when it comes to delivering the best care with the available budget,” he said.
“Councils across the country, including Sunderland, have been warning how council tax rises are not going to fix the social care crisis.
“While this recognition and the funding is welcome from the Chancellor, I very much fear that the devil will be in the detail on the announcement and it is too little, and too late.
“This is a sticking plaster over a gaping wound and I cannot see how this is going to be giving local authorities enough resources to take the pressure off the NHS.”
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson said: “Today’s Budget is a damning indictment of seven years of economic failure from the Tories.
“When they first came into power over half a decade ago, we were promised the UK’s budget deficit would be eliminated by 2015.
“Instead, public sector net borrowing this financial year now stands at £50billion, while the national debt has risen to over £1.5trillion – that’s more than 85% of our GDP.
“After his predecessor failed to meet any of his fiscal targets in the last Parliament, Philip Hammond has abandoned all hope of balancing the budget during the current one. Far from living within our means, the Tories are plunging the UK ever deeper into debt.
“This failure to get a grip on the nation’s finances leaves the British economy poorly placed to cope with the turbulence that two years of Brexit negotiations are bound to bring.
“It is a disgrace that in one of the world’s richest countries, six million people are now earning less than the living wage and four million children are living in poverty. Rising fuel and food prices on the back of a weak pound mean that things are only going to get harder for Britain’s working families.
“The British people deserve better than this.”
But Gary Hutchinson, chairman of Sunderland Business Partnership, was pleased to see the Chancellor recognising the importance of skills training : “The Chancellor’s increasing focus attention on technical skills is something that I think can only benefit Sunderland and is therefore to be welcomed.
“Key industries in the North East, and in particular, Sunderland, rely on the availability of skilled talent to support their growth, and in many of these cases, it is through apprenticeships that employers will find this talent.
“As a former apprentice, I am a huge advocate of a technical route into the world of work; it is about time that vocational education was placed on an equal footing to academic education.
“I am proud to be part of a movement of businesses and organisations working together to raise aspirations.”