Spring Statement: Anger over Chancellor's failure to acknowledge funding crisis

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Unions and charities have expressed their disappointment at the Chancellor’s failure to commit to helping schools and early years in his Spring Statement.

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Chancellor Philip Hammond

Delivering the Spring Statement today in Parliament, the Chancellor Philip Hammond promised more money for new technologies, to tackle knife crime and fund sanitary products for girls in secondary schools, but failed to acknowledge the funding crisis facing schools, early years settings and children’s services.

He suggested there may be more money for public services, but only if a Brexit deal is agreed. Mr Hammond said he will launch a full, three-year spending review before the summer recess, ready for the next budget if a deal is in place.

Early years

The Early Years Alliance warned that the Chancellor’s failure to make a funding announcement for childcare, will put increasing pressure on providers already struggling to stay open.

Chief executive Neil Leitch said, ‘It beggars belief that the Government is walking a sector as vital as the early years to this cliff edge - with their refusal to budge on frozen funding levels even as outgoings soar. With report after report of quality providers being forced to close their doors for good, it’s vital that the Government takes urgent action on this issue – the sector cannot afford any further delay.’

Schools

The National Education Union (NEU) accused the Chancellor of being ‘out of touch with the issues schools face on a daily basis’.

Joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said, ‘Parents, teachers, heads, school staff and MPs from across the House will be dismayed that the Chancellor did not address the national school funding crisis.

‘Following his “little extras” gaffe last year, it remains the case that the Chancellor is out of touch with the issues schools face on a daily basis. There is nothing new for children with SEND who are not getting adequate provision, nor for teachers who use their own money to resource lessons, or head teachers with difficult decisions to make around the lengths of the school day.’

Green MP Caroline Lucas shared the same sentiment.

Writing on Twitter, she said, 'Is the Chancellor deluded or just uncaring?

‘Education funding is in crisis, yet in line with “little extras” snub, he’s failed to provide long-term funding schools need & give our young people the education they deserve. #SchoolCuts must urgently be reversed.’

General secretary at Unison the union, Dave Prentis, said, ‘As usual there was little for struggling local services. Schools, social care, hospitals and youth services are all begging for extra resources.

‘Urgent help is needed to deal with growing problems caused by almost a decade of harsh spending cuts. But a Government paralysed by Brexit is unable to respond to their plight.

‘The Chancellor’s statement will be swiftly forgotten, but the consequences of inaction will continue to scar communities for generations to come.’

Children’s services

Action for Children’s director of policy and campaigns, Imran Hussain, said the Government can’t continue to "press pause" on supporting the UK’s most vulnerable children.

‘Today’s Spring Statement is yet another wasted opportunity for the Government to get to grips with the very real crisis facing children’s services which play a critical role in keeping our children safe from neglect, abuse and harm. 

‘While we welcome the Chancellor’s emergency package to tackle knife crime, we should also be looking to deal with the root causes. Children’s and youth services play a crucial role in stepping in early to prevent family breakdown which can eventually lead young people into problems such as gangs.

‘Whether we leave or remain, the Government cannot continue to press pause on supporting the UK’s most vulnerable children and if this year’s Spending Review doesn’t give councils the funding they need to provide these vital services, our children will continue to pay the price.’

Families

The charity Child Poverty Action Group said it was 'dismayed' that the Chancellor did not bring an end to the freeze on working age benefits, despite cross-party calls for the policy to stop.

Chief Executive Alison Garnham explained, ‘Struggling families are desperate for an end to the freeze on working age benefits, but this Spring Statement leaves them out in the cold once again. Already the freeze has saved the Treasury more than was ever intended, so there can be no ongoing justification for these ‘stealth cuts’ that mean that the poorest in society have borne the heaviest burden from paying off the deficit.

‘Today, the Chancellor could have sent a lifeline to low-income families.  That he didn’t is evidence of Ministers’ refusal to confront the reality that families have been left with too little money to live on after three long years of stagnant incomes and rising prices. It leaves in tatters the Prime Minister’s claim that austerity is over.

‘Child poverty rates risk reaching a record high by the end of this Parliament with two hundred thousand children tipped into poverty as a result of the freeze on children’s benefits alone. We have a moral responsibility to support struggling families, but the Chancellor has ducked this responsibility yet again.'

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