The Budget was to coin a phrase, a game with two halves. The first being whether or not the Chancellor Philip Hammond had done enough to see off the almost constant attacks from the right wing of his party who want him sacked, and the second; what economic proposals could he come up with that actually benefit the UK’s economy?
On the first my take is he did a good enough presentational job to hold onto his own for a bit longer. Made a couple of good jokes at Michael Gove’s expense which were received with laughter from across the Chamber, including many Tories. This was interesting as it’s pretty common knowledge in Westminster that Gove has been angling to take over from Hammond, so it appears many Conservative MPs still hold Mr Gove in a lower regard than he holds himself.
Onto the more important Budget outcome for the rest of us - what did the Chancellor propose that would make a positive difference to the economy? Not a lot frankly. And there was an audible gasp when he announced the economic forecasts for the next five years, and every single one of them was down from what they had projected only last March. This is grim, and I suspect the media will begin to focus on the OBR’s (Office of Budget Responsibility) forecasts a great deal over the next few days, and its impact on all of us. No doubt you will read the Budget numbers in more detail elsewhere but another figure which was a standout for me was the money allocated to pay for the government’s administrative aspect of Brexit. The teams of civil servants who will be needed to extricate us from the EU; it was £3bn, and this on top of the £700m already given. That’s more than the additional cash the Chancellor has allocated to our NHS for the next five years, which is a point to ponder. No word also on cutting VAT for our hard pressed hospitality industry or on public sector pay, other than he would ‘listen’ to the nurses review body when it reports next year. No additional money for schools even though an unprecedented 5,000 headteachers from across the country, including Eastbourne and Willingdon, have bluntly told this government they are facing a funding crisis. And no pause to Universal Credit. Some welcome changes but still rolling on with the national rollout despite many independent bodies and me for that matter, expressing profound concerns too many brutal elements of the benefit remain unchanged. No extra money for instance to prevent the 2m single parents around the UK losing on average an absolutely shocking £2,380 per year in benefits. A point I raised at Prime Ministers Question time last week. So returning to my game of two halves; first half he won, second half an awful lot of people stand to lose.
DGH Friston Children’s Ward goes from strength to strength! I popped in recently to meet the staff and have a general catch-up of their situation and would like to update you, the Herald readers. And what an enjoyable experience it was. Seeing up close the work of the team, many of whom have been with the paediatric unit for years, was inspiring. We all know they’ve been through some challenging times over the past few years but their ambition for the children and their determination to keep improving the children’s service at our DGH was clear as a bell. Matron, Liz Vaughan, is someone I’ve known for a long time and frankly is a force of nature in local paediatrics, with a reputation that I trust implicitly. To hear from her how the future looked for our children’s ward was reassuring for me and I hope it will be to you as well, so in her own words: “We were delighted to show Stephen around the unit for him to chat to the unit’s doctors, nurses and admin staff. He showed real interest in the work we do to care for local children and their parents. Stephen recognised the benefits of our philosophy that children should only admitted overnight if their care cannot be provided safely as a short stay. Offering assessment and treatment on the unit enables a child to return home quickly which is good for both them and their parents.”
I am also very supportive of the direction of travel with Friston Ward looking to move toward 23hr cover. It was explained to me that this would enhance the service even more so I told Liz that if she and her team needed any support, they could count me in. It’s been a long haul for our paediatric services, we all know that. It’s been tough on parents, staff and most of all the town’s children as the cuts and changes happened over the years, many of which I vigorously opposed, but what I saw on my visit was real progress. The morale, determination and sheer love from the staff toward their young patients and their belief now in the service they deliver - just bowled me over.
That’s it folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.