Spring Statement was ‘dead rubber’

14 Mar 19

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement has been branded a “dead rubber” that will not end austerity for the public sector.

Umbrella groups, think-tanks, charities and unions slammed Hammond’s failure to address issues including local government funding, school finances and the ongoing benefits freeze in his announcement to the Commons yesterday. 

CIFPA chief executive Rob Whiteman called Hammond’s statement “an absolute dead rubber”.

“There was little in the way of real commitments by the chancellor to any reprioritisation of spending, and despite an ‘end to austerity’ most of the public sector remains under strain,” he added.

Lord Porter, chair of the Local Government Association, said the chancellor had “missed the opportunity” to provide more funding for local government.

He warned: “The money local government has to maintain the services our communities rely on is running out fast and huge uncertainty remains about how local services will be paid for into the next decade.”

Key announcements from the Spring Statement included a £100m cash injection for police to tackle knife crime, following pressure from the home secretary last week.

There was also a new £3bn scheme to build 30,000 affordable homes and confirmation of a three-year Spending Review before parliament’s summer recess – subject to a Brexit deal.

The County Councils Network’s chairman Paul Carter said it was important that the Spending Review “truly spells the end of austerity for local government” and that the fair funding review should continue to be implemented alongside it.

Adam Lent, director of the New Local Government Network think-tank, lamented the omission of funding for local government calling it “disappointing”.

“The benefit of new investment in policing budgets will be undermined if there is no recognition of the role wider public services such as youth clubs play in preventing knife crime,” he added.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the union Unison, said “urgent help” is needed for struggling local services and warned that the “statement will swiftly be forgotten, but the consequences of inaction will continue to scare communities for generations”.

The lack of attention given in the statement to schools funding will leave teachers, parents and MPs “dismayed”, according to the National Education Union.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “Hammond’s boast that the economy is in recovery prompts the question of why he cannot address the issue of school funding now.

“The chancellor had an opportunity today to end uncertainty for schools about budget planning, He failed.”

Poverty think-tank the Joseph Rowntree Foundation criticised Hammond’s failure to end the benefits freeze a year early – a move it said could pull 200,000 people in the UK out of poverty.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of JRF, said: “The government should have shown today that it is serious about tackling the rising tide of poverty in the UK. Instead they chose not to end the freeze on benefits leaving families in poverty to face rising costs and bear all the risks of economic uncertainty, especially if we leave the EU without a deal.”

The chancellor’s announcement of the £3bn affordable homes programme was praised by housing charity Shelter, CIPFA and the housing association G15.

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