On Tuesday 13th March the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, delivered his Spring Statement to Parliament.
I have learnt never to expect good news from the current Government, and the Chancellor did not disappoint. His statement was nothing short of a disaster for local communities.
From the closure of vital services – such as the Waldron Centre walk-in clinic in New Cross – to cuts to education funding and an increase in the number of people needing to access foodbanks, we have all felt the effects that austerity has had on our communities. But I want to use my column to highlight three particular ways in which the Chancellor has let us down this time.
Firstly, children’s services. According to Department for Education statistics, last year saw the biggest rise in the number of children in care for seven years, yet children’s services are facing a £2billion funding gap by 2020 and since 2010 there has been a real terms decrease of 40% in local authority spending on early intervention. Three-quarters of English councils exceeded their budgets for children’s services last year – surely a clear indication that there is a severe lack of funding in this area.
Secondly, women’s refuges. This is something I have raised several times in Parliament over the last year, including in one of my questions to Theresa May. Under the Tories, almost a fifth of specialist women’s refuges have been forced to close. 60% of all referrals were declined in 2016-17 and 95% of refuge managers have been forced to turn women away in the last six months because they had physical impairments, complex mental health needs, too many children with them or simply because there were no beds available. My staff encountered these problems first-hand when trying to find a refuge bed for a constituent – there were no spaces available in the whole of London.
Thirdly, adult social care. Government cuts to adult social care since 2010 are set to reach £6.3m billion by the end of this month. My caseworkers and I have seen the detrimental impact these cuts have had on the quality and amount of care being provided to adults in need. According to the Local Government Association, the social care system needs an immediate injection of £1.3 billion, yet the money offered to councils so far is nowhere near enough to ease the crisis.
It is obvious that our public services cannot wait until the Autumn Budget to receive life-saving funding. The Spring Statement was a missed opportunity to reverse the damage which has already been done by years of austerity. It is time for the Government to wake up to the scale of suffering being inflicted on our communities.