Hidden away in the Budget’s Red Book were figures showing that the Ministry of Justice will see further cuts of £300m next year. I wanted the minister to tell us how he intends to safeguard the safety of our prisons with such huge cuts.
The minister wanted to change the debate onto last year’s budget, but this is not what I asked. That’s why I pressed from the backbenches for him to answer my question. You will notice that he still had no answer. I am deeply concerned that these cuts – to one of the most cut departments in government since 2010 – will lead to a further deterioration in the quality of our prisons and legal system.
An Urgent Question was granted on police funding and I wanted to see if we could get a straight answer from the minister on cuts.
We were told austerity has ended, but the Red Book – which details the Budget’s spending – stated that the Home Office will be cut by £100,000,000 next year. If the UK Government can’t say where these cuts are going to fall we must all be worried that they will hit our neighbourhood police officers the hardest.
If the Government do not properly fund our law enforcement agencies, like security services and the police, properly we will see crime continue to rise.
This was a sticking plaster Budget. It did nothing to address the long-term problems created by eight long years of enforced austerity; an austerity that was driven only by ideology and not by facts.
The funding for the North Wales Growth Deal is welcome, but the devil is in the detail. Local councils, businesses, Assembly Members and MPs have worked hard to get support from UK Government. After over three years the £120m is welcome, but still under performs on expectations.
What we needed in this Budget was investment in schools, local government and our public services. What we got was an expert exercise in kicking the can down the road. On police we were told that the Home Secretary will investigate police funding later in the year. On schools, the Government thinks that £10,000 per primary school will be enough. This is a derisible sum that will do nothing to reverse the catastrophic impact of the UK Government’s funding for local government. It is important to note that this funding is for England only and will translate into Barnet Formula funding for the Welsh Government.
There was talk about tax reliefs for those paying Capital Gains tax, but there was no talk of how we redress the imbalance within society or how we eradicate child poverty. Delyn has suffered at the hands of this UK Government. Be it Universal Credit, the Bedroom Tax, and their utter failure on unemployment for North East Wales.
We could have had a Budget that invested in renewable energy and high-tech jobs. It could have been a Budget that supported people in work against the cost of living. We should have seen a Budget that supported small and medium sized businesses grow and invest in their towns. This was a missed opportunity which will place further pressures on people trying to do the right thing.
Despite the Government benches getting a bit over keen when the Prime Minister entered the Chamber for PMQs, I was able to question the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps she was taking to ensure that all political parties represented in Stormont were given the ability to scrutinise the Northern Irish budget.
Despite the collapse of devolved rule in Northern Ireland we must make sure that all political parties are involved in the budget that will need to be implemented by Westminster. It will ensure cooperation and hopefully provide a platform for all parties to reenter into power sharing once more.