Comprehensive Spending Review: Devil is in the Detail

Reacting to the Autumn Statement and the Comprehensive Spending Review, Copeland MP, Jamie Reed has warned that the devil is in the detail and that the smoke and mirrors employed by the Chancellor masks pain that is yet to come.

On healthcare, on local government investment and on infrastructure, the Chancellor made announcements that will not stand up to scrutiny.

During the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced that he was scrapping grants for student nurses which will increase the cost to students wanting to become nurses, midwives and study other allied health subjects.  West and North Cumbria is currently facing a recruitment crisis and the Chancellor’s plans will make it less likely for students to enter the profession.

Local Government is facing real terms cuts each year as a result of the Spending Review putting pressure on local services.  Already, 40% of cuts local services have fallen on Adult Social Care according to the National Audit Office.  Services that have already been cut to the bone will suffer further.  The Spending Review documents show that local Government budgets will fall in real terms by 1.7% per year up to 2019/20.

Infrastructure in Copeland was ignored by the Spending Review. Previous questions by Jamie Reed to the Government have revealed that the Government have no plans to conduct feasibility studies into improving sections of the A595 and that rail spending per head in the North West is falling and lags behind much of the rest of the country.

Pressure on the Chancellor from Jamie Reed and local campaigns have forced two Government U-turns: Tax-credit cuts and police cuts.  Jamie Reed has repeatedly called for the Chancellor to scrap his planned cuts that would see working families in Copeland £1,300 a year worse off and today, the Chancellor admitted defeat.  The local MP warned that the ‘devil is in the detail’ as changes to Universal Credit which will eventually incorporate Tax Credits masks ‘pain that is yet to come’.  The Chancellor has also indicated that he will have to cut Housing Benefit to pay for his U-turn.

On cuts to policing, Jamie Reed joined colleagues recently to submit to the Prime Minister a petition signed by 12,000 in Cumbria to protest the Governments planned swingeing cuts.  As a result of this pressure, the Chancellor was forced to back down.

Copeland MP, Jamie Reed said:

“Over the last five years, the Chancellor has failed every test he has set himself.  He promised to eliminate the deficit in five years, he failed.  He promised to protect Britain’s credit rating, he failed.  Each time he comes to Parliament, his growth figures are revised.  He set a cap on welfare spending and now he is set to break it.

“At a time when we should be encouraging more young people to enter the medical profession, the Government is increasing the cost.  Increasing the financial burden for those wanting to become nurses and midwives is no way to address a worsening recruitment crises.  In West and North Cumbria we are putting in place a plan to ‘grow our own medics’, but this effort will not be helped by the Government putting up financial barriers.  People won’t forget that Labour went into the last election with a clear and costed plan to train 20,000 new nurses that didn’t involve putting the burden on students.

“Time and again, the Government has refused to engage with my calls for infrastructure investment in Copeland.  Requests fall on deaf ears, the Government shrugs their shoulders and it is us that pay the price.  Our road network isn’t fit for purpose and investment in our rail is falling.  The Chancellor offered nothing to remedy this today.  I will continue to work for the investment we need.

“Local Government has been cut to the bone and Adult Social Care services are already feeling the brunt of the cuts.  The National Audit Office has said that 40% of local cuts have fallen on care services.  The Government’s announcement that local government budgets will fall year on year, means even more services are being put at risk.

“The Chancellor’s U-turn on his planned cuts to Tax Credits will be welcomed by the thousands of families in Copeland that would have lost out, but the devil is in the detail.  Changes to Universal Credit and to Housing Benefit means that families could still lose out.  This fight isn’t over and I will be keeping the pressure on the Government to ensure working families don’t pay the price for the Chancellor’s failures.

“It is testament to the many thousands of people in Cumbria that made their voices heard that the Government had to back down on planned cuts to the police service.  In the face of such strong public opinion, the Chancellor had no option but to scrap his plans.  Again, however, the devil will be in the detail, protecting budgets is not the same as maintaining the same number of police officers.  The Government must be clear about what their plans mean for our police.

“Recent figures show that the number of people in long-term unemployment has risen massively under this Government.  More and more are reliant on food banks and zero hours contracts offer no security for families trying to make ends meet.  Despite his best efforts, the Chancellor’s spin and bluster will hold no water with those who are still finding life very tough after five years of this Chancellor of the Exchequer”