It’s just a fortnight since the Chancellor delivered his eighth Summer Budget in the House of Commons. They say a week is a long time in Politics, but George Osborne and the Government have had a fortnight of their repeated failures on full display.
Since taking office in 2010, the Chancellor has failed every test he has set himself. Missed borrowing targets and downgraded growth. He sets his own tests, marks his own homework and still manages to fail. This pattern has been repeated in each of the last six years, and so it came to pass again as the Chancellor delivered a budget that is disastrous for the country and bad for Cumbria.
Despite the Government trying to claim, with no real credibility, that ‘we are all in this together’, the Chancellor delivered a budget that gave tax cuts to the wealthiest in society balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable.
This was a budget that was so extreme that Iain Duncan Smith, who oversaw the introduction of the Bedroom Tax, believed the Government had gone too far. In the budget, the Chancellor decided to cut financial support for disabled people: the financial support that is designed to allow disabled people to live independent lives. This comes just weeks after the Government decided to cut support for those with serious illnesses – a cut that hits 1,500 people in West Cumbria and a cut which I opposed and voted against. The priorities of this pernicious Government have been laid bare and it is the most vulnerable in society that are paying the price.
In the run up to the budget, I wrote to the Chancellor setting out the case for support and investment for West Cumbria. We know that our region can become one of the fastest growing sub-regional economies in whole country, but we also know that achieving our potential requires support from Government.
We need investment in our key infrastructure and our key services.
I outlined to the Chancellor the pressing need for investment in the A595 to make it fit for purpose. Between 2004 and 2013, the A595 was closed or subject to restricted access once every five days – more than 700 times.
I also pressed for investment in our local NHS to solve our local recruitment crisis that sees a third of local staff say they are unable to meet all the conflicting demands on their time. Moreover, I made the case for more funding to allow the Phase 2 of the redevelopment of West Cumberland Hospital to get underway.
The Budget came and West Cumbria was left out and let down, but the fight goes on. The truth is, we will achieve a great deal locally, but we will have to do it in spite of this Government rather than with their support. Our best days are ahead of us and I will continue to work tirelessly to make the case to ensure the Government gives us the tools we need to succeed.