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A Green budget for the common good

There should have been an emergency intervention to end the chaos in health and social care and address the air pollution emergency, but instead it’s another resounding failure from a Government that’s got no ideas beyond an obsession with scaling back the state.

Caroline Lucas, Co-leader of the Green Party.

Our health and social care systems are in crisis and so is our planet, but listening to the budget speech, you'd have to think that the Chancellor hadn't noticed.

Speaking before the budget, Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party said

After years of privatisation and under-investment the future of the health service hangs in the balance, and social care services are at risk of collapse. We know that funding a world class healthcare service will cost more, which is why the Government should reverse planned cuts to corporation tax and their tax giveaway to high earners.

The Green Party called for an emergency intervention to steer Britain away from the brink of the crisis in the NHS and social care, to clampdown on air pollution which is estimated to end 40,000 lives prematurely every year, and to end the attacks the renewable energy sector. A Green budget would include:

  • An emergency aid package to protect health and social care services

  • Toughest ever action on air pollution

  • Protection of small firms from Business Rate hikes

  • Ensuring the richest people and biggest corporations pay more tax

  • Reversing the solar tax hike that penalises businesses and public institutions that have installed solar panels.

Philip Hammond’s budget failed to adequately address any of the crises we face.

Caroline Lucas described the planned funding changes for the NHS and social care as woefully inadequate. NHS leaders agree. The Institute of Healthcare management have described the situation of the NHS as approaching Armageddon Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, sharply criticised the announcement, saying:

This budget does nothing to address the gaping hole in NHS finances. There is a £30bn gap to fill and we should be increasing health spending by at least £10.3bn to match other leading European economies.

But while the NHS and social care crises received at least a token acknowledgment, there was no mention of the air pollution emergency that is claiming tens of thousands of lives. Despite being ordered twice by the courts to take urgent steps to tackle the air pollution crisis, it seems the Government has still not grasped the urgency of the situation. The Green Party has concrete proposals for phasing out diesel vehicles (one of the main causes of air pollution), including help for car owners to move to less polluting vehicles. Policies that for years have made using public transport more and more inconvenient and expensive must be reversed if we are to tackle the problem of overcrowding on roads and rising air pollution. This budget does not even acknowledge that a problem exists!

Climate change wasn’t actually mentioned, but energy policy announcements demonstrate a continuation of foot-dragging and backtracking. Caroline Lucas slammed the Government for a climate failure' budget and highlighted the lack of action on air pollution:

Rather than reversing the solar tax hike or ploughing money into renewables the Chancellor seems hell bent on drilling for more gas and oil in the North Sea, and handing further cash to the motor lobby with the fuel duty freeze. Britain should be leading the world in climate change technology and green jobs but instead we’re lagging behind and laying the foundations for another dash for gas.

The budget didn't address the huge hole in funding for local authorities either.

The County Council elections in May take place against a background of seemingly unending cuts to local government funding, which will severely limit the options available to the new council, whatever its political colour.

According to the Conservative chair of the Local Government Association: “With local government facing an overall funding gap of £5.8 billion by 2020, all councils will need to make continued cutbacks to local services including social care, over the next few years.“

The LGA also reported a reduction of 40% in local government funding during the Coalition government and funding has fallen more steeply under the current government.

Green Councillors across the country, elected in growing numbers in recent years, have made imaginative proposals to try and reduce the impact of the cuts on essential public services. For example in Sheffield a Green Councillor is proposing reductions in the salaries of the highest paid council officers to prevent the closure of a dementia care centre. But the Green Party recognises that the crisis in our public services requires a national change of direction, and additional financial resources, paid for by increasing taxes on the rich, and on large corporations ,and clamping down on tax avoidance.

In Derbyshire over £20 million of cuts are planned in 2017/18, following on from years of cuts. Green Party candidates in the County Council Elections will be offering the chance to vote against austerity and in favour of decent public services, greater equality and action on climate change. We will also be campaigning about air pollution and the need to promote and support an integrated public transport network, running on clean energy. For the Common Good.

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