Today the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, outlined how the government will be delivering on the priorities of the British people despite the major blow to the economy caused by the Covid crisis.
Our immediate priority is to protect people’s lives and livelihoods as we respond to coronavirus. However, we are also doubling down on our commitment to deliver stronger public services – more hospitals, better schools and safer streets. We heard of a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure – creating jobs, growing the economy, and levelling up opportunity.
The government is continuing to invest in our police, with £400 million committed to recruit an extra 6000 officers by the end of next year meaning we are on target to achieve an extra 20,000 by 2023. The NHS will get a £6.6 billion boost which will enable us to recruit 50,000 more nurses and provide 50 million more GP appointments. The biggest investment in our military since the cold war will protect our nation’s interests at home and abroad, and at a time where we need to build for Britain we have ensured that more British taxpayer’s money is spent here instead of abroad.
The economy will inevitably look very different as we emerge from this crisis than it did before. It won’t be possible to save every job as it currently is, so our Kickstart programme will invest £3 billion to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to retrain in an industry of the future. I’m glad to see the government is investing in skills and education to ensure the workforce is prepared for the new economic structure. The government is increasing the core schools budget by £2.2 billion in 2021-22, delivering a minimum 2% increase per pupil. They are also investing £375 million in skills, delivering the Lifetime Skills Guarantee and reform of the apprenticeship system. They are also ensuring education facilities are fit for the future with £1.8 billion to maintain and improve the condition of school buildings, and £1.5 billion to improve the FE College estate, and funding for T-levels and Institutes of Technology.
For me, the most important announcement made by the Chancellor was the commitment to give above-inflation pay rises to the nurses and doctors who have been at the front line during this pandemic. Yesterday I argued that MPs should not be given a pay rise, and instead that money should be used to reward those who have been risking their lives for the rest of us at the Airedale Hospital and elsewhere, so I am glad that has been delivered. In addition, public sector workers earning under £24,000 will also be given an increase, meaning the key workers in most need will earn more.
The Chancellor’s statement today signals good news for Keighley and Ilkley. Official forecasts predict the biggest economic decline in 300 years and Covid has provided us with a challenge never seen before by any British government. Despite this, we have reaffirmed our commitment to the promises made at the last General Election so we can ensure that the people in Keighley and Ilkley and across the north of England have the support they need to prosper.