MP FOR SELLY OAK WRITES…
THE budget is now less than a week away. Our first national lockdown began five days after the last one and since then 120,000 people have lost their lives.
This budget will be a test for the Chancellor. He’ll be worried about the public finances. Latest figures show borrowing, for this year, is expected to be £332 billion – about three times the budget for the entire NHS.
It was £145 billion at the peak of the financial crisis when George Osborne panicked and slashed spending on police, schools and public services.
We’re still suffering the consequences of those decisions and it’s vital this Chancellor doesn’t repeat the same mistakes especially when the cost of borrowing is so low.
He must provide help to get businesses back on their feet if they’re ever to be capable of paying him taxes once again. He’ll need to extend the furlough for some and help small businesses with cash flow and rent or we’ll lose them. We’ll also need money for investment to create new jobs.
Perhaps he should steal Keir Starmer’s suggestion of a British Recovery Bond. That would raise extra cash without further borrowing or taxes.
Investment in research and innovation increases opportunities but fairness is crucial.
Too much government research money is ploughed into the ‘golden triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge, London and the South-east.
We could achieve far more here if we got a fairer deal.
If the Chancellor’s going to build for the future, unemployed youngsters need proper training, not dead-end, temporary jobs and there must be access to rapid reskilling for those who lose their jobs but have many productive years ahead.
Birmingham and the West Midlands can lead once again – in new medicines, new technologies and clean industries – but it won’t happen with the same old thinking.
It will be a test for the Chancellor but it’s our future he’s gambling with.