Granada Debate: Is this the budget full of optimism?

  • Catch-up on ITV Granada's monthly political programme - The Granada Debate

The Spring Budget has been hailed as 'inclusive' and 'full of optimism' for those living in the North West.

It was billed by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt as the "Back to Work budget", which was either "proving the doubters wrong", or according to Labour, "dressing up stagnation as stability".

The policies announced on Wednesday 15 March impact household budgets and businesses all across the North West who are already struggling with the cost of living.

James Daly, Conservative MP for Bury North, said he believes although things will not change overnight, it is a budget which be beneficial for those across the region "in the long run".

"In the North West there is significant funding support that has been put in for individuals," he said.

"As well as for councils, and for areas, including where I am in Greater Manchester with the creation of investment zones supporting high-tech industries, universities and centres of excellence.

"So there’s a lot of things, and it’s a concentration on trying to ensure everybody has equal access, to the jobs markets, to the skills to all the things people need to have happy, successful, productive lives."

He added: "This is the budget that is full of optimism, that is trying to kickstart a skills and economic revolution in my part of the world - a devolution deal which I think all parties says is a good thing - and also Levelling Up funding in Labour areas and Conservative areas.

"It is an inclusive, positive budget and I think we’re going to see the benefits of it going forward."

But, despite the optimistic tone taken by the Chancellor as he delivered his plan to get the economy growing again, Labour say Jeremy Hunt chose to prioritise the UK's richest 1% with his Spring Budget, rather than using it to provide support to struggling families.

Speaking as part of ITV Granada's monthly political programme the Granada Debate, one of the region's newest MPs, Labour's Samantha Dixon who represents City of Chester, says she remains unconvinced.

"I’m not persuaded by the budget," she said, "I think his optimism is somewhat misplaced.

"I think for people watching they will be asking, ‘Am I better off after this budget?’ and I think they look at their circumstances and they’ll think no I’m not."

ITV Granada Reports spoke to one woman from Warrington who is living with cancer and struggling with the cost of living - her husband eats just one meal a day. 

She says that for all the Chancellor's focus on Enterprise, Employment, and Education - one "e word" was missing.

Ms Dixon added: "These are desperate times, and I’m not surprised that the people you interviewed are feeling worried - they talked about compassion, I can’t see it, I just can’t see it.

"I think a lot of the positive measures that were in the budget, we do welcome, but we have been calling for this for a long time.

"One of the opportunities the chancellor has missed is to raise further revenue from the windfall tax, which he could have done but he has allowed the big energy companies to continue to keep that profit, which has come out of higher prices because of the Ukraine war, they’ve not passed it on the hard working British families who really need it."

Lise McNally was joined by James Daly Conservative MP for Bury North, and Samantha Dixon Labour MP for City of Chester. Credit: ITV News

When asked what Labour could do differently the MP said she believed her party would look at public sector works, who she accused the Conservatives of forgetting.

"I think it would be very different," the MP said. "There are circumstances people are experiencing that we need to address.

"The complete absence of any recognition of the freeze that there has been of public sector workers over the course of this government is stark.

"A Labour government cares about public services, while the Chancellor was making his speech so many public sector workers were striking, and they don’t do that for fun, they are doing that because it is the last resort available to them and saying they really need some help.

"One of my constituents wrote to me last week she is a health care worker working to provide for her family in her local hospital, her husband is a veteran who is a logistics haulier, they are having to resort to a foodbank, I don’t think this budget is going to help them."

  • James Daly MP and Samantha Dixon MP got into a heated exchange after Mr Daly accused Labour of not caring about those who were self-employed or worked in the private sector.

The rabbit pulled out of the Chancellor's hat was a big announcement on childcare. 

It is a £4 billion pound plan that will mean families who work at least 16 hours a week will be able to access up to 30 hours of free childcare from when their baby is nine months old. 

It will be rolled out gradually, arriving in full September 2025. 

And in a move to get nurseries ready for the change, there are sign on bonuses for new childminders, and the Government has relaxed the staff to children ratio from 1 in 4 to 1 in 5. 

Discussing the announcement, Mr Daly who is the Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group for nursery schools, nurseries and reception classes, said he hoped the government would give extra money to nurseries if running costs rose.

He said: "It’s about the quality of care. Not only do they need the financial support which is highly important, but the chancellor has responded and the government has responded to the ratios that it needed and some of the other policies issues are to be welcomed.

"I believe that is fundamental to this announcement is it’s about address the equality of access to the workplace.

"The challenges of childcare and other things do predominately fall on females and I just want policies in place that mean that everyone has an equal choice as to when they can afford to get back into the job market and do whatever job it is they want to do to ensure they support their family the best way.

"It is a really good announcement but as ever with childcare and as ever with nursery provision there is more always to be done, but it is a very good step in the right direction."

However Ms Dixon criticised the length of time it would take to roll out the measure, with the full effect of the plan not being felt by parents until September 2025.

"Eventually this will be welcome news," she said. "But I think the delay is going to be disappointing for families who need the help now.

"But, the Labour Party supports an extension of childcare availability, we actually argued for it for a long time."

When asked if Labour would take on the measures if they were to win the next General Election, Ms Dixon would not commit.

She said: "It hasn’t been costed, there could be additional costs that come out of this, so at this stage we don’t know what the government is proposing or what the costs are going to be involved.

"In a sense they feel they’ve pushed it further down the road so we can pick up the other side of the general election but it sounds good but we’ll have to wait and see after the General Election."

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