This is a smoke and mirrors, damp squib of a budget which falls far short of what is needed to deal with the crisis in public services in our city, reduce regional inequalities or respond in any meaningful way to the climate emergency.
This budget won’t re-open the 38 children’s centres shut by the Tories, bring back the 150 sacked Police Community Support Officers or go anywhere near replacing the £40m slashed from the Norfolk Constabulary budget since 2010.
With council spending per person still 20% lower in 2020–21 than it was in 2009–10, our local authorities continue to run on empty. And that matters hugely because they are on the frontline of response to the huge challenges of the climate crisis, an ageing society and public health emergencies like coronavirus. Those cuts have happened at the same time as council duties related to Public health, Social care and Homelessness have increased and demand for those services has also soared.
I can’t see any way the supposedly new NHS money will actually add to our city’s health service. There is already the black hole of a near £100m deficit in the overall health budget for Norfolk and Waveney to fill and there is nothing in today’s announcements that will stop our county’s main hospital and mental health services from languishing perpetually in special measures.
The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the UEA says of all the counties in mainland UK, Norfolk is the most “at-risk” from the effects of the climate emergency but the scale and objectives of the capital spending announced doesn’t even scratch the surface of what is needed to push back against climate breakdown.
Coastal erosion, flooding and lack of rainfall have profound effects here and Norfolk’s economy and jobs – tourism, agriculture, food, fishing, even the insurance industry – are extremely exposed to the environmental emergency.
The IPPR says £33bn is needed every year to achieve the government’s own 2050 net zero carbon emissions target. And showing just how paper thin this government’s environmental commitment is, almost £30bn is slated for roads which will inevitably result in increased emissions and there’s nothing to bring back the 20% of Environment Agency staff laid off since 2013.”