Another year, another budget. But what’s new?
The country still isn’t in great shape, sadly. Whilst global inflation is starting to ease, domestic inflation is proving more stubborn. We all know that, of course, given the cost of everything.
The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, announced some welcome changes to funding for childcare. But we must wait until 2025 for them to kick in. That’s not great news for those of us currently paying a fortune for childcare and, quite frankly, it was also a bit of political trap. The Government could only afford to fund this by keeping public sector funding (for other departments like health and education and policing) to 1%. Departmental spending is almost guaranteed to be higher than that, but the great thing about the 2025 start date is that it’s after the next election. So, it’ll be a problem for whoever comes next!
The honest picture is stark. Our national debt is too high and we’re paying over £90bn a year in interest alone. Income from taxation is declining (because we are an aging population and trade has been declining), which is why levels of taxation on working people and business is the highest it’s been for many decades.
There was also no mention of resolving public sector pay disputes and, remarkably, very little to say on the long term fixes for high energy bills and delivering on our net zero targets (note: you can do both at the same time).
We shouldn’t be surprised, of course. It’s the end of the Parliamentary term and we’re coming up to a General Election which will happen at some point next year. Most of our problems are deep structural problems that can’t be turned around quickly. Whoever ends up in Government after the next election will have plenty on their hands.
Thankfully, in local news, my ‘Better Buses or Bust!’ campaign has had a better reception than the Chancellor’s budget. I’ve had a great response to the launch of the campaign, with the first 100 journeys logged in only a few days, and the number of submissions increasing throughout the first week.
At the time of writing, more than a quarter of the journeys logged are from Henleaze and Westbury-on-Trym, so thank you to everyone who is supporting the campaign!
Please keep the momentum going and continue to log your journeys at www.darren-jones.co.uk/bus throughout April and May. I plan to do a month-by-month comparison to see if reliability improves from April – like one bus company has claimed it will – or if the long-running problems persist. More data means more evidence, and it will strengthen my case if I need to hold the bus companies to account.
In other bus news, unfortunately Stagecoach will be putting the brakes on parts of routes 10 and 11, which will now only go as far as Southmead Hospital. Several constituents who use the service to travel to UWE, Bristol Parkway train station and Aztec West have contacted my office, bewildered by the changes that will leave them high and dry for getting to work or university.
This isn’t right. Whether you cannot drive, or choose not to, you should be able to trust that the bus services that you rely on will not vanish in a poof. Frankly, we already have enough ghost buses.
Our bus services are run by private companies, but public transport is an essential public service, and so I have requested an urgent meeting with Stagecoach to speak up for my constituents. I’ll share details of the outcome of this meeting in my next column.
Last month, I mentioned that I had written to the Council about concerns raised on the planned introduction of parking charges in the car park by the Westbury-on-Trym GP surgery. Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees has replied to my letter, informing me that the proposed charges will be subject to consultation before becoming Council policy, so you will still have an opportunity to make your views heard. I’ll share information on this public consultation when it is announced.
As always, if you need my help or have a question, you can get in touch with me on e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling my office on 0117 959 6545 or by writing to me at the House of Commons, London