WARRINGTON’S two MPs have given their feedback on the Chancellor’s spending review, which includes a public sector pay freeze and a cut to foreign aid spending in a bid to tackle soaring debt and unemployment amid a huge COVID-19 induced economic downturn.
Announcing his one-year spending review to the House of Commons on Wednesday, Rishi Sunak said the “economic emergency” from the coronavirus pandemic “has only just begun”.
With UK borrowing forecast to reach £394bn this year – equivalent to 19% of GDP and the highest recorded level in peacetime history – Mr Sunak announced a pay freeze for public sector workers outside of the NHS, although those earning less than £24,000 will receive a rise of at least £250.
Warrington South MP Andy Carter (Con) said: “There was a whole suite of announcements made by the Chancellor that will directly impact many people’s lives in a positive way across Warrington South.
“Some of the economic forecasting and spending plans are unheard of in peacetime but are absolutely necessary to keep people in jobs and to protect livelihoods. We shouldn’t forget that whilst unemployment is obviously higher than before the crisis began, we are doing comparatively well compared to our European partners and the US, utilising the furlough scheme until March and providing generous cash grants to businesses.
“I’m particularly pleased to see the introduction of the £4bn Levelling Up Fund. We need to support efforts to bring more high-quality jobs in the town, and we can only do that by regenerating our high streets, improving our transport links and making the town more attractive to bring a combination of private and public sector investment.
“Nurses, doctors and those working in our health services will get a pay rise as will 2.1 million of the lowest-paid public sector employees. The additional funding promised to our schools and police will also be delivered in line with commitments and I will continue to fight for funding to progress a new hospital for Warrington.”
Meanwhile, Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols (Lab) said: “Warrington needed a plan from the Chancellor to support jobs and grow our local economy but all we got were more half measures.
“Key workers in Warrington won’t forget the Chancellor standing on his doorstep to clap for them but now he’s cutting their pay, meaning they will have less to spend in our local economy.
“The economic crisis we are in now demands a fresh approach from the Government. This crisis was totally unprecedented and the economies of all countries in the world have suffered.
“In spite of that- and when the public needed effective government most- the Chancellor threw billions of taxpayers’ money down the drain for PPE that never turned up, left us with the worst downturn in the G7 and created a jobs crisis through the threat of removing the furlough until the last minute.
“I welcome money in the ‘levelling up’ fund and will fight for Warrington to have a fair share of this money so that we can build back better from this pandemic.”
Some of the key points of the spending review
*Pay rises for over a million nurses, doctors and others working in the NHS but pay rises “paused” for the rest of the public sector next year
*However, the 2.1 million public sector workers earning less than £24,000 will receive a rise of at least £250 – and this means the majority of public employees will see their pay increase in 2021
*Spending 0.7% of national income on overseas aid is “difficult to justify” at a time of “unprecedented crisis”
*It is being cut to 0.5% in 2021 but with the intention to return to 0.7% when the fiscal situation allows
*Based on latest OECD data, the UK would remain the second-highest aid donor in the G7
*£18bn allocated to testing, PPE and vaccines next year and £3bn for the NHS plus over £2bn to keep transport arteries open, more than £3bn to local authorities and £250m to help end rough sleeping
*Altogether public services funding to tackle coronavirus next year will be £55bn
*This year a total of £280bn provided “to get our country through coronavirus”
*Core health budget rises by £6.6bn next year, allowing the government to deliver 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more GP appointments, Mr Sunak said
*There will also be a £2.3bn increase in capital investments in the NHS – to replace old MRI and CT scanners and fund a promised hospital building programme
*Schools budget to increase by £2.2bn next year and a £291m boost for further education plus £1.5bn to rebuild colleges and £375m to deliver the PM’s lifetime skills guarantee
*£400m to recruit 6,000 new police officers and £4bn over four years for 18,000 new prison places
*Unemployment expected to peak at 7.5% – 2.6 million people – in the second quarter of next year
*£3bn for a three-year Restart programme to help a million people who have been unemployed for over a year to find jobs
*National living wage to rise by 2.2% to £8.91 per hour and will be extended to those aged 23 and over.
*National minimum wage will also increase.
*Local authorities to be given extra flexibility to raise council tax which – together with an extra £300m grant from Whitehall – will give them an extra £1bn to spend on social care
*”Levelling up” fund worth £4bn to pay for local projects with “real impact” – such as bypasses, railway station upgrades, traffic reduction, libraries, museums and galleries as well as high street and town centre improvements