BLOG: Mayoral leads reflect on the recent Autumn Statement

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement was delivered in the House of Commons on 23 November. Liverpool’s Mayoral Leads respond to what they heard… 

Councillor Tim Beaumont, Mayoral Lead for Health and Wellbeing, Health and the NHS

LCC Cllr's. July 2010It’s long been proven that investment in health and wellbeing preventative schemes such as tackling obesity levels and helping those with mild health issues, reduces further spending in the NHS later down the line. To help those before they reach crisis point helps to reduce the strain on hospital visits, especially on A&E, which is already at tipping point.

Not only did Philip Hammond miss an opportunity to coordinate resources to invest properly in health and wellbeing, he failed to invest any funding in basic services in the NHS and social care provision. With social care services facing a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2019/20, the crisis is real and is happening now.

As a council, if we stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres, turned off every street light, there would still not have enough money to plug the social care gap. Calls from the Mayor, leaders of other core cities, NHS managers and health charities for adequate funding have all been ignored.

Scrimping on preventative health and social care is false economy. If the government fails to get serious about prevention then recent progress in healthy life expectancies will stall, health inequalities will widen, and billions of pounds will be spend on wholly avoidable illness. Billions of pounds could be saved, many of those in hospital could have avoided a stay if their condition could have been prevented by better support. In Liverpool, we have had much success in treating cancer but our much higher incident rate means that we will fall further behind the rest of the country without the sort of health investment we need. More investment is need in preventative health and social care to maintain a sustainable health service that is free and accessible.

To truly have a society that works for everyone, we must look after our most vulnerable in our communities. By not allocating any funding and no urgent action being taken by Government, the quality and safety of care to our elderly is at risk and the vulnerable will increasingly struggle to receive the help they need to meet basic needs.

Councillor Gerard Woodhouse, Mayoral Lead for Older People, Social Care for Older People

Cllr Gerard WoodhouseIt is no exaggeration to say the social care for older people is at breaking point. I have seen for myself the impact of austerity measures and cuts to council funding have made to continue the care for our most vulnerable residents. As Paul Brant, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care pointed out at the last Council meeting, Liverpool has lost over £100m in funding from adult social care and public health in the last three years.

So, it was with hope, rather than conviction, that the Autumn Statement would address the strain on local authorities in trying to bridge the gap between available funding and the need for caring for our residents. I hoped that more money for social care the NHS would be announced to help ease the strain.

Not only was no more money pledged, but there was no mention of the NHS or social care within Phillip Hammond’s statement. With a record number of older people in hospital and the NHS on the brink, it is the first time healthcare spending per head has declined since the NHS was created.
While the failure by this government to address the funding problems in social care provision, older and vulnerable residents will continue to face the prospect of losing the dignified care and support they deserve.

As councillors we will continue to fight for fairer funding for social care and our NHS, joining our voice to other local authorities to make this government sit up and listen to ticking time bomb of social care provision.

Councillor Rosie Jolly, Mayoral Lead for Social Value, Living Wages for Just About Managing (JAM)

rosie-jolly-sen-and-northern-enterprise-2016-twoWith well-respected think tanks including The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) declaring that the outlook for wages is “dreadful” and that workers would earn less in real wage in 2021 than they did in 2008, it is clear that we have a government that really does not care about who their archaic policies impact on and what long term effects will result.

On the 13 July 2016 we heard a lot in Mrs. May’s statement as the incoming Prime Minister about her approach, who she would listen to and who would come first in ‘her’ government, she said when addressing families;

“We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.”

The reality is that Mrs. May has not listened. The impact on wages will mean that families already struggling to make ends meet will be driven further into poverty as prices for goods increase and wages fall further behind inflation. If we take into account the reforms of the existing welfare system and further changes planned, then the forecast becomes even bleaker. Analysis shows that those most likely to be affected by this between now and 2020 will be lower income families, with the poorest third likely to see incomes drop. The IFS was quick to highlight that the wage growth projected back in March this year is now not likely to happen and the harsh reality is that wages will remain below their 2008 levels.

Of course the elephant in the room as always these days remains ‘Brexit’ as no one really knows what the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU will look like. Will we see a further decline in wages and Inflation off the scale as we make our exit from the EU? How will local businesses that sustain and create jobs in the city fair in a very different economy outside of the EU? The uncertainty of Brexit combined with the revelations of the Autumn Statement paint an uncertain future and more challenges ahead for hard working families and businesses.

Declared as the worst decade for living standards since the war and probably since the Great Depression of the 1920’s it’s time Mrs. May practiced what she preaches. If she really wants to help families, then wage increases combined with more support for business should have been at the forefront of the Autumn statement and not what we have seen which will make the poor even poorer as they struggle to fit the square box of wages into the round hole of inflation.

Councillor Gary Millar, Assistant Mayor and Mayoral Lead for Business & Enterprise, Digital Infrastructure

Gary Millar CCS_4967 (1)Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his Autumn Statement on the eve of what our friends in the US call “thanksgiving”. Ironically, his sombre announcements also happened to fall in the same week that includes what these same US friends mysteriously call Black Friday. Although, it was a day in which innovation was talked about, it felt more like one which lacked depth, grit, substance, ambition and unfortunately true innovation! So, in a week where we have little to be thankful for, we certainly have much to be gloomy about!

Let’s first understand the good news. In his Autumn Statement it was reported that the Chancellor’s new measures to boost British infrastructure and innovation include:

• A new £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund to pump capital and boost productivity in Britain over the next five years.
• £390m to bankroll low-emission and autonomous vehicle projects
• £1bn to ensure Britain becomes a world leader in digital infrastructure (£740m will go towards the roll out of full-fibre connections and 5G across the country).
• Tax breaks for broadband suppliers. This will see companies receive 100 per cent business rate relief for new full-fibre infrastructure for a five-year period from 1 April 2017.
• £400m into venture capital funds through the British Business Bank to boost exports

And now for some bad news! Any investment in the UK digital backbone is of course welcome. But, it also needs to be understood that the full cost of deploying the networks suggested would be “many times greater” than the £1bn announced. When it comes to digital connectivity and the backing of trials for integrated fibre and 5G the government itself needs to understand that some core city business districts (including Liverpool). Therefore, it’s all very well teasing us with 5G (that won’t even be available until at least 2020) but let’s get the local backbone right first. In addition, lets allow smaller providers the opportunity to compete in a fair and open market against (in some areas) existing snail-paced supposedly super-fast broadband provision.

It is also disappointing that we will have to wait until the 2017 budget to hear the full extent of the Chancellor’s digital connectivity plans. Perhaps, the government might then consider a golden opportunity to help introduce the UK’s first 1Gb cities and also make it easier for local authorities across the UK to enable businesses and residents access to public sector fibre networks via lower cost “invest to earn” schemes.

So, whilst it appears the Chancellors death march continues to gather pace, it does so whilst other nations rush towards their own internet enabled digital backbones.

Councillor James Noakes, Mayoral Lead for Energy & Smart Cities, Connectivity

There is no escaping the fact that the recent autumn statement was not a good one for local government. Social care – perhaps the biggest issue for local authorities – was simply not addressed for example. So when asked to consider the implications of the autumn statement on my brief of energy and smart city, it has to be done in that context. I will leave the energy issue and focus on digital implications.

Not one definition of ‘smart city’ exists, the concept focuses on intelligent infrastructure and increased use of digital technology for the benefit of managing the city and supporting citizens to live more fulfilling lives. No city will be able to call itself ‘smart’ if the most vulnerable in society are left struggling. Nevertheless, with that in mind there are some interesting things in the autumn statement for those working on smart city issues.

The National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) brings £23bn of funding over the coming 5 years to improve spending on digital communications, transport and housing. £740m of this is to focus on digital communications and support for the Internet of Things. Increasing productivity in Liverpool and the city region will increasingly rely on better broadband for everyone and more connected devices. But as much as £740m is, it is a drop in the ocean for the level of investment we may need to offset losses elsewhere in local authority spend.

It was also announced that the National Infrastructure Commission is also to conduct a study into technology and infrastructure. Liverpool is open to being a city where new technologies can be tested and implemented and some already are. We want the city to be an open innovation platform for technology to help move us into the future. We would welcome playing a role in this study. Liverpool is a city that is big enough to matter but ideally sized to make things happen. Our scale is a virtue we should promote and exploit.

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) are an expanding focus for the vehicle industry. I have written a piece on the issues before. The autumn statement has allocated £100m for new testing infrastructure. I am concerned that the government may have already identified what that is without consultation but developments in Liverpool such as Sensor City need to be a part of that as autonomous vehicles will rely heavily on sensors.

FinTech is a growing specialism that the UK is increasing its focus on. The autumn statement allocated £500,000 a year to FinTech specialists and announced a network of FinTech regional envoys. Liverpool has a very strong presence in the wealth management sector and this announcement may well begin to have an impact. We all access financial services so at some point this will affect us all.

Digital figures big in how the government sees services changing and there is a realisation that the infrastructure needs to be there to support it. However, I wonder if the government is backing the scale of the challenge with the appropriate funding. As with all government announcements, there is no use announcing millions of pounds spend if it doesn’t impact in practice; if it is lost in bureaucratic wrangling; is hived off to the usual suspects never to be seen or provides an unfair advantage for those places already better off. And there was nothing extra in the statement for key regional support for digital skills.

I will end, however, on the note I started on. The benefits outlined in the autumn statement for our digital future pale in comparison to the challenges we face in taking care of the most vulnerable in society. Yes, new technologies will help many to live more enriched and connected lives, but it would be wrong to think that can overcome the huge problems created by chronic underfunding and a lack of support for the council and vulnerable residents.

Councillor Joanne Calvert, Mayoral Lead for Mental Health, Supporting Vulnerable People
Joanne CalvertThe £1.4bn pledged by the Government in 2015 to improve mental health services for children is failing to make frontline services, instead being used to offset NHS cuts elsewhere. Therefor it was more vitally important than ever before for Phillip Hammond to address the problems in supporting children and adults with mental health difficulties in Government’s Autumn Statement.

For a Government that pledges to help the ‘just about managing’ they are failing those who aren’t managing at all and desperately need help. It is incredibly disappointing that mental health and the NHS weren’t mentioned once in the 72 page document, with social care services and voluntary organisations not receiving anything extra.

Early intervention is vital to those facing mental health issues to tackle problems before they become difficult to reverse and teaching skills that promote wellbeing. To completely overlook and neglect giving these vital services greater priority fails to protect them for the future.

Councillor Lynnie Hinnigan, Mayoral Lead for Youth & Citizen Engagement, Youth Unemployment and Apprenticeships

lynniehinniganYouth unemployment is rising across the country, with an increase of 11.9% between July to September 2016 for those aged between 16 to 24. In Liverpool, The Mayor and Nick Small, Cabinet Member for Employment and Skills, have been working hard since 2010 to create over 1,000 meaningful apprenticeship schemes which not only bridge the skill gap, but also translate into long term opportunities for our young people.

In the Autumn Statement, I was looking forward to see if this Conservative Government would make good Theresa May’s pledge to ‘Make a country that works for everyone’.

So, Philip Hammond’s announcement to create an extra 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 is clearly welcomed. However, my concern remains as to how these will be delivered? Will these apprenticeships be in sectors to give the necessary high quality training for our young people to bridge the skill gap? Will these apprenticeships be long term, with the hope of a permanent job at the end of the training? Will the apprenticeships target those who economically or socially disadvantaged?

Only time will tell if Philip Hammond’s pledge is a mere token sound bite or a real meaningful step towards giving all our young people a level playground. In the meantime, in Liverpool we will continue to do what we’ve always done, take care of our own.

Councillor Lana Orr, Mayoral Lead for Primary School Education, Grammar Schools
lana-orr-ccs_4885-1The proposal to introduce grammar schools throughout the country, announced by the Prime Minister in September, claims to improve social mobility. However, as shown in a motion to Council presented by Nick Small and I in September 2016, it only harms children’s chances of receiving a good education. Every child in our city, regardless of ability, should get the best education possible.

So, for £240 million to be pledged to grammar schools by Philip Hammond in his Autumn Statement is not only a step in the wrong direction, but creates an unfair system for our children. The reintroduction of grammar schools redirects money to just a handful of schools, but funding is desperately needed by our all schools, who have been hit by the years of austerity.

It was not voted for by the electorate, but is a policy that is being aggressively pursued by ministers. Instead of focussing the money on a failed 20th century scheme, I would urge the Government to rethink their policy and invest the £240m in early year’s education, children’s health, retaining high quality teachers and address the severe funding pressures in schools & colleges. In other words, by creating schools fit for the 21st century with good education for all children, not just the select few, that promotes real social mobility.

Have a go at the Council’s budget simulator at https://liverpool.budgetsimulator.com/