George Osborne’s spending review: Six reasons why you should care

Manchester Evening News 19:35, 24 NOV 2015 19:36, 24 NOV 2015 

 Jennifer Williams

From policing cuts to faster train journeys, tomorrow’s autumn statement will affect each and every one of us

There won’t be a single one of us left unaffected by what George Osborne says in Parliament tomorrow afternoon.

At about 12.30pm the Chancellor will take to his feet and unveil his grand plan for the next five years – much of which will be yet more austerity.

Forget what you were told during the election. This will put the meat on the bones.

If you pay taxes, claim welfare, have a job, don’t have a job, have kids, use the NHS, catch trains, are a student, are rich, poor or somewhere in between – and especially if you live in the north – the autumn statement will leave its mark.

So here are just a few reasons why.

Security

In the wake of Paris , most of us will have wondered – however fleetingly – how our area would cope with a similar atrocity.

For those in charge of such matters, many fears now centre on the resourcing of our police forces, with senior officers warning looming cuts to neighbourhood policing will suffocate the kind of grassroots intelligence that helps them stay one step ahead of terrorists.

But George Osborne appears to be standing firm on plans to cut ANOTHER fifth from the national policing pot when he rolls out his latest wave of austerity tomorrow afternoon.

With police chiefs across the country warning such a cut will render them unable to counter the terror threat, fears are running high over the effect of more than £100m in extra cuts to Greater Manchester Police – England’s third largest force and a key player in counter-terror work.

Poverty

George Osborne is widely expected to do at least a partial u-turn tomorrow on plans to slash tax credits for working people – a benefit claimed by hundreds of thousands of people across Greater Manchester.

But that cut, which formed a large chunk of his planned £12bn in welfare savings this parliament, will then need to be found elsewhere.

If he takes it from the rest of the welfare budget, which is likely, those receiving state support for housing, sickness or disability could all find themselves with less money.

In Greater Manchester alone around 250,000 people claim some form of housing benefit – while figures over the summer suggested existing cuts to disability benefit were leading to suicides.

The NHS

After weeks of ominous headlines over the parlous state of our health service’s finances, George Osborne now appears poised to act.

Last year’s winter pressures saw Stepping Hill and Wythenshawe hospital under particular strain from spiralling waiting lists and bed blocking.

Tomorrow Mr Osborne is set to announce £3.8bn of the £8bn previously pledged by the Tories for the NHS will be frontloaded this year as a particularly cold winter looms.

But it may well be bad news for student nurses, whose bursaries he looks set to raid.

It may also be bad news for your council tax bill. Town halls could be given permission to hike council tax by an extra 2pc in order to pay for a nationwide social care funding black hole, the M.E.N. understands – arguably Mr Osborne passing the buck on to local government after claiming taxes would not go up over this parliament.

Transport

Engineering works around Manchester Oxford Road will affect Northern Rail and TransPennine services into Manchester Piccadilly.
Engineering works around Manchester Oxford Road will affect Northern Rail and TransPennine services into Manchester Piccadilly.Manchester Piccadilly.
Local transport bosses are hopeful of a cash injection for the northern transport system – and not a moment too soon.

Ahead of imminent announcements over who will operate northern rail franchises from 2016, many are looking tomorrow’s budget for some big-ticket investment.

That could include more details on the electrification of the Transpennine line, dramatically ‘un-paused’ by the Tories at their conference in September following uproar.

But the big reveal is likely to be around the much-vaunted northern Oyster Card, with the Treasury said to be planning a cash injection to get that off the ground.

Homelessness, mental health


Steve AllenHomeless camp on London Road, Manchester
Local government is traditionally the softest target in Whitehall when the Treasury starts waving the axe.

Unloved and underfunded, town halls are now scraping the barrel when it comes to savings – and the impact is often seen in unpleasant and unexpected ways.

Manchester’s current homeless problem has been hugely exacerbated by cuts to council funding traditionally used to provide hostel beds.

Or take the city’s crisis-hit mental health trust, again. Part of its financial crisis – which has led to it axing a huge range of frontline services for some of the most vulnerable in the city – has been caused by the council slashing more than £2m from its contracts this year alone.

Like the police, however, councils are expected to be hit by at least a 25pc cut in funding tomorrow, with the real detail not expected until the new year. Town hall insiders say it has made setting a budget for last year more uncertain than ever before – meaning that if your council ends up planning to slash local services from April, you may not find out about it until very late in the day.

The next Prime Minister?

In some ways tomorrow’s budget is as much about George Osborne himself as it is the rest of us.

Long considered David Cameron’s choice of successor, dire borrowing figures released last week – coupled with a likely u-turn on tax credit cuts, a flagship policy from the summer – have the power to severely wound him.

Usually seen as a shrewd political tactician, he may have painted himself into a corner.

An autumn statement that inflicts more misery on the working poor could see further rebellion from his own benches and severely damage his chances as future leader. But equally his colleagues will expect him to hold his nerve on austerity.

The most inscrutable part of his statement – where he reads out a stream of economic facts and projections – in reality has the power to make or break his chances.

All in all, tomorrow could have a decisive impact on the country’s political landscape for many years to come.

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