Today’s budget breaks the Tories’ own promises – and offers little help to Wales.
Chancellor Philip Hammond presented his final spring Budget by unveiling a rise in National Insurance, a further delay to the Government’s plans to cut the deficit – and, again, no firm commitment to proposals for North Wales’ transport system.
In the Budget, the Chancellor revealed a rise in National Insurance payments affecting self employed people – despite a pledge in the 2015 Conservative manifesto that the party would not raise them. Forecasts also revealed that the Government expect a budget deficit of £16 billion in 2022 – in the next Parliament and seven years after the Tories had pledged to have eliminated the deficit when they took office in 2010.
The Chancellor’s speech made few references to Wales, and the Budget itself only mentions North Wales once in its 68 pages, when it pledges the Government “will consider” plans for North Wales when they are put forward. This Budget showed that the Government is breaking its promises to the British people. They said they would not raise National Insurance – then raised it. They said they would have got rid of the deficit by 2015 – and two years later admitted that they had failed so badly they will still be borrowing billions in 2022.
The Chancellor also paid very little attention to Brexit, despite the clear impact it will have in the coming years. The Government seem to have no clear plan for the crucial issue of our time, and everyone – whichever way they voted – should be concerned about that.
In North Wales, I was disappointed that the Chancellor yet again missed the chance to lend his Government’s support to our area. The whole of Wales will get just £200 million, split over the next four years. In contrast, the Welsh Government invested £43 million in North East Wales on one project alone, the upgrade of the Wrexham to Chester line.
We will keep on working to make the case for North Wales. Tomorrow, the Mersey Dee Alliance launches a growth prospectus for our area to complement the Growth Track 360 travel prospectus. Across our region, people are working to make the case for investment. The Welsh Government is listening and acting – the UK Government must catch up.