WEARSIDE MPs wanted today’s budget to focus on bringing jobs to Sunderland and helping people through difficult times.
The city’s members of Parliament and council chiefs were watching Chancellor George Osborne’s budget speech closely today to see what the announcements will mean for Wearsiders.
Labour, unions and campaign group Sunderland Against the Cuts have maligned the Coalition for its drastic spending cuts, but the Tories say there had already been some good news and were expecting more today.
Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott wanted Mr Osborne to put jobs and growth first – particularly tackling youth unemployment, which is on the rise in Wearside – as well as helping “hard-pressed” families.
She also called for protecting front-line services such as NHS staff and police, and a rethink on the planned fuel duty rise in April.
Ms Elliott said: “Labour is calling on the Government to repeat the bank bonus tax this year to create over 100,000 jobs, build 25,000 affordable homes, rescue construction apprenticeships and boost investment in businesses.
“To tackle the deficit some tough choices undoubtedly have to be made but the Government is cutting too fast, too hard.”
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson said: “Osborne needs to think again and get a Plan B for jobs and growth, before it is too late for our area.
“In cutting the deficit too hard and too fast the Government will repeat the mistakes of the 1980s that caused lasting damage.”
She added: “Osborne’s policies are already increasing unemployment, damaging living standards and economic growth is contracting.
“It’s crucial we see support for manufacturing and construction, as well as providing the right environment to develop green technologies that will provide future jobs.”
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, a shadow children’s minister, was particularly concerned about the impact of cuts on young people and called for more support.
“Young people have been disproportionately targeted for cuts so far, and the most damaging of these in the short term will be scrapping the Education Maintenance Allowance and the Future Jobs Fund, both of which were giving young adults from poorer backgrounds a hand,” she said.
“If the Chancellor could reinstate these programmes – at least partly – he would be giving a fighting chance to the young people of Sunderland who want to get on in life, but are finding their opportunities limited.”
Sunderland Conservatives leader Tony Morrissey, however, was more positive about the opportunities in the budget.
“I think the watchword for the budget is going to be growth,” he said. “I’m hopeful we’ll see a lot of barriers to companies employing people lifted so more people can get into work.
“I’m hopeful those people who are in work, or who get work, will be better off with the increase in personal (tax) allowance.”
Coun Morrissey added he was hopeful there was an opportunity for Wearside to benefit from one of the 10 enterprise zones the Government hopes to create to stimulate business growth.
He added: “I’m confident the Government will continue to protect the economy in the same way it has done over the last year.”