I recommit every day to my job being about making life and living in Bury, Tottington and Ramsbottom better. It’s what you’ve come to expect of me too, I hope. So, I judge this Budget on those terms, as we all will, and on the lived experiences in our town.

The government’s call at its party conference this year was of Opportunity but this was a budget of wasted opportunities. No mention of protecting our communities with new bobbies on the beat or tackling climate change and the creation of new green jobs.

The long overdue funding for our NHS is welcome but the government’s delay in agreeing to our calls for it means independent health authorities say it’s still not enough and demand is rising. The cost and crisis in social care still goes unanswered and pushed further on to the shoulders of local taxpayers with the government’s social care council tax charge. This is something I’ll raise with the Health Minister when I meet her next month to discuss my recent Hospice and social care report, Living Well & Dying Well.

Our brilliant shopkeepers have my full support in taking advantage of any government initiative they issue on renewing our high streets, where needed. The marginal change in income tax and business rates are a welcome relief for some but these are half measures and a wasted opportunity. Low and middle income workers are still hit hardest by the longest wage slump in 200 years.

On children and education, this Budget fails most. The government’s social security cuts will leave four million children in poverty. The Chancellor’s insulting ‘little extras’ line will define a Budget that misses the mark. New school buildings, teachers and teaching assistants are some of the little extras schools in Bury need. According to the IFS, schools have lost 8% in real terms funding per pupil since 2010 and this Budget does nothing to plug the £2 billion shortfall they’re facing. Bury schools tell me, as they told this paper earlier this year, they’re being forced to cut teachers, support staff, spending on books and equipment and the vital extra support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. Nurseries and colleges fared even worse. No new funding to address the growing crisis forcing our nurseries to charge parents to fill their funding gap. Colleges weren’t even mentioned and with spending per student in Further Education to return next year to the level it was in 30 years ago.

Most starkly for our town though is that austerity continues, putting local services at breaking point, with no let up in this government’s planned cuts to Bury totalling a staggering £100 million ripped out by next year. Adult social care, children’s services, mental health provision and community safety are all in the firing line along with cultural facilities, leisure and library services or investing in our parks and green spaces all hammered again with cuts to our towns.

Modest extras for pothole repairs is welcome but a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of the challenge to restore our roads after a near decade of being run over by austerity.

This budget ignored our shared concerns about the rise in crime and keeping communities safe. Crime is up 60% across Greater Manchester since 2015 with 2,000 fewer police officers since 2010. No new money for our police and with a deficit in the police pensions scheme the Treasury is forcing onto local forces this puts another 600 police officers next year at risk in Greater Manchester.

Listening to this Budget, I imagined all those I represent on both my shoulders - left and right - and considered our town’s reactions with each announcement by the Chancellor. Of course we’ll have some different views but I know as your MP, we’ve a shared faith in fairness. Whilst austerity reigns, a Budget that rewards those with the most with more whilst those with much less get least, wont chime well with that faith. Austerity isn’t over, as the Prime Minister promised, and this budget was a wasted opportunity. So let’s recommit to continue to make the case and make a difference together. I’ll keep standing up for what’s right for us as a town and what we need to thrive. We’ve difficult days ahead but let’s remain strong; believing in and arguing for what’s best for Bury and Britain.


MP for Bury North