In politics words matter a lot. Less than a month ago Theresa May delivered her leaders’ address to Tory party conference, in which she proclaimed, “A decade after the financial crash, people need to know that the austerity it led to is over and that their hard work has paid off.” Chancellor Philip Hammond echoed Mrs May earlier this week in his Autumn Statement, saying, “austerity is finally coming to an end”.
In both speeches, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor indicated that cuts in public spending, begun under David Cameron and George Osborne, would soon be over and that those who have suffered the most over the past ten years will finally see relief.
Their words were nothing more than cynical, spin politics and by the end of the Autumn Statement the truth had been revealed, that this was just another budget full of broken promises and more punishing cuts.
It is simply shocking that after eight years of gruelling public sector cuts, stagnant wages, a health and social care crisis, a rising cost of living and the national debt double the size, the Government is still hell bent on defending their indefensible austerity programme. And to add to the misery they are eluding the British people with half-truths, smoke and mirrors.
In response to the Autumn Statement the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) confirmed that under the Government’s plans, austerity is set to continue for years, with further cuts in essential public services like local councils, police, and prisons.
I agree with IFS Director Paul Johnson, when he said, “If I were a prison governor, a local authority chief executive or a head teacher, I would struggle to find much to celebrate. I would be preparing for more difficult years ahead.”
The lowest moment for me was the Chancellor’s crass remark about providing £400m cash for what he called the “little extras”. We all know the huge pressure Head Teachers and their staff are under. With pupils numbers and school on-costs going up its getting harder and harder to provide great education with real terms budget cuts. So it was no surprise to see #LittleExtras trending as teachers took to Twitter to vent their anger at this Government.
Back at home I was delighted to see that four of our local heroes were honoured at the FACT (Fighting All Cancers Together) awards dinner on Tuesday evening. England keeper Jordan Pickford, TV’s Colin Briggs, Marian Adamson whose family developed Ramside Hall and Geordie comedian Bobby Pattison were awarded special honours by the charity for their contribution to our region.
FACT, a charity which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is based in my constituency. Joanne Smith, their charismatic Chief Executive, started the organisation when she was recovering from Cancer with two young children and couldn’t find support services. Ten years on and Joanne is running a charity providing all manner of support, from therapies and counselling to fitness classes and wig fitting. They have already delivered 9,000 support sessions across the region this year.
But in addition to the day to day running of the charity, Joanne has a big vision for the future of cancer support in our region. She plans to build a state of the art support centre with people living with all forms of cancer, survivors and their families on the former Dunston Hill Primary School site.
The “Big Build” is an ambitious project, but one that will provide vital support for local people and their friends and families affected by their diagnosis – and it needs a big response from all of us to make it happen.
If you’d like to know more about this exciting project or can support in any way, visit fact-bigbuild.co.uk.