Brexit & Government Spending

On Friday I will be meeting Sussex representatives of the National Farmers’ Union to discuss agricultural policy. 

Farmers are understandably concerned about how farming will be supported when we leave the EU and are no longer members of the Common Agricultural Policy.

These practical issues underline the importance of a sensible approach to Brexit.  This week the House of Commons will again vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill before it goes to the Lords.

The Bill transfers EU law into domestic UK law, so that the country’s statute book is ready for the day we leave the EU, and gives Parliament the ability to alter and amend as it sees fit. 

Also on Friday I will be meeting leaders of West Sussex County Council, with my fellow MPs in the county, for one of our regular updates.

We will be discussing a number of issues including social care, school funding and the local government finance settlement.  This year’s Provisional settlement was very challenging for West Sussex, which will see a reduction of over 50 per cent in its core funding (schools are funded separately).

Council tax rises cannot be the route out of this.  They are unpopular - council tax doubled under the last government - and in any case are limited by the Government.

Last week a Labour Shadow Minister and close ally of Jeremy Corbyn was forced to resign from the frontbench after he suggested big council tax rises for properties in band D and above, meaning that families would pay over £300 more a year, increasing taxes for a third of the country. 

Councils have been forced to make big savings over the past few years as the country’s deficit has been reduced.  The real reductions in their budgets are a contrast with those for public services such as schools and the NHS which have been protected.

These protected services have undoubtedly faced cost pressures, but overall spending on them has been increased, not cut.  For instance, the NHS received an extra £437 million this year and £1.6 billion next year in the Autumn Budget, and there was also £1 billion extra social care funding this year.

In fact, this year real terms funding on the health service will be £12.5 billion higher than in 2010-11.  Remember this the next time you hear a politician furiously denouncing ‘cuts’ and demanding higher taxes to pay for higher spending.