Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his last Budget before Brexit on Monday just weeks after Theresa May declared an ‘end’ to austerity.
But how was it received? And how will his plans affect education and business in the North East.
We asked Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Academic Dean, Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism and Dr Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society, from the University of Sunderland for their views.
Dr Lynne McKenna:
“Eight years of austerity cuts to education and social services have had a significant impact on provision and more importantly, on outcomes for children, young people and their families. Early Years, SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) School funding, Post-16 funding, closure of youth services and cuts to the social care budget have and continue to be considerably affected.
“While the Chancellor pledges a £400million payment to schools, this amounts to only £10,000 for primary schools and £50,000 for secondary. This will hardly have any impact and for primaries would not fund half a support staff post. So we have to question whether this is indeed an extra resource at all.”
“The impact of the closure of Sure Start Children’s Centres is having a significant impact on the lives of many parents and young children. Part of the flagship Labour policy of 1997, Sure Start Children’s Centres first appeared in 1998, initially in deprived areas but were subsequently rolled out nationally. The success of the centres provided support to parents and young children offering parenting support, health, education, and employment support.
“The centres became a victim of austerity cuts and in 2018, the Sutton Trust estimated that as many as 1,000 centres have closed. This has made it more difficult for low income families with children to access essential support and services and will therefore, negatively impact on the Government’s Child Poverty Act targets. Combined with issues such as the growing number of children who are reported as having ‘school holiday hunger’ and some working parents reporting having to use food banks to feed their children, it is clear that the cuts have impacted upon the section of our society who need the most support.
“In our schools, we are witnessing an increase in pupil numbers which has been rising steadily rising since the early 2000’s and this is beginning to hit secondary schools. While the schools minister Nick Gibb claims that more money than ever is being put into schools, the way in which the data is presented is misleading. Taking inflation into account, the increase in school funding is actually equivalent in real terms to an actual freeze in funding. Alongside this, the School Teachers’ Review Body recommended in July 2018 that teachers should receive a pay increase of 3.5%. If implemented fully, this will further impact on school budgets and could potentially result in a situation where school leaders are forced to make further cuts to implement pay rises for staff.
“In the same way, spending on sixth form and post-16 colleges has fallen by a fifth in the past eight years according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and this has led to job losses, course closures and limited learning opportunities. There are calls from teaching unions and head teacher associations that the cost of all pay awards for school teachers, sixth forth college teachers and support staff should be fully funded by the government.
“Social Care was not mentioned in the last budget, so I was pleased to hear about the investment in 2019/20. However, this alone will not reverse the impact of the cuts that have been put in place since 2010.
“Cuts to local authority services such as youth services and social care are affecting the most vulnerable in our communities. For example, the number of children with special educational needs who are awaiting suitable provision has more than doubled since 2010. The removal of women’s refuges from the welfare system is putting the lives of vulnerable women and children at risk, and one in five children waiting to be adopted have been waiting over a year. Social workers are reporting not being able to access services they know the people they are working with need.”
Professor Lawrence Bellamy:
“The Budget did provide some benefits for small firms. These are the backbone of the British economy and need to be nurtured. National Insurance, investment taxation threshold up to £1m, fuel duty freeze and lower fees contribution for apprenticeships are a mixture of controlling costs and tentative encouragement for investment in skills and facilities.
“Retail, which continues to suffer from internet shopping and consumer habits can benefit from structural investment in towns and cities of £675m total and lower rates for small shops. This will help a few areas on the edge with good planning. However this represents a small sum in relation to the seismic shift in the sector required to realign with the new ways of trading.
“Infrastructure investment did not address the specific needs of regions with headline projects. Bold strokes are required and a little more of the same won’t be enough to drive growth. However, the detail is yet to be revealed and the cited £420m for potholes only represents a treatment of a previous problem.
“The Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine and increased investment was noted, with intentions to support R&D and particular areas to assist productivity. However for the NE then further specific commitments would have been helpful to address the manufacturing confidence issues surrounding the Brexit uncertainties.
“Overall the budget helpfully acknowledged the areas which are of concern; skills, infrastructure, regional challenges, retail and small firms, but does not represent a fundamental shift for any, it’s a relatively small ‘giveaway’.