In the Budget the Chancellor tried to give the impression that it would devolve resources to northern cities, and further claimed that “the quality of public services has not gone down it has gone up”. The truth is our front-line services have been cut to the bone. And on the fundamental question of how they will be funded in the future, the silence from the Government is deafening.
In the next 10 years, there will be a 27 per cent increase in the number of those aged 80 or over in Sheffield. Without a new funding settlement, social care services will be severely affected, with more and more of my constituents unable to receive the preventative, joined-up services they need, and some will receive no support at all. The Government continues to spin the Better Care Fund as a fund. They claim that Sheffield will receive £37.8 million, but that figure represents the total amount of pooled budget shared with the NHS: they are top-slicing existing resources. Reports of child sexual abuse are increasing, and a recent Ofsted report concluded that three quarters of councils do not deliver children’s social care to a good enough standard. The Public Accounts Committee found little or no improvement in outcomes for children in foster and residential care, nor in how well they are looked after. It highlighted the abject failure of the Department for Education to take any responsibility for driving up standards. With this background it is hugely disappointing that the Government have again failed to make extra funding available to protect children from sexual abuse.
When I was first elected Sheffield was seeing the growth in investment in the public realm that characterised the Labour years – new schools, hospitals and health centres all leading to better lives. This year, the revenue support grant for Sheffield Council will have been cut by 50 per cent compared with 2010. Local government cannot continue to absorb such pressures. It is no wonder that the people of my city have little time for the Tories. This Budget did not try to tackle the real issues at local level or provide solutions to real problems. It will do little to improve the lives of the constituents whom it has been my privilege to represent for the past 14 years.