Budget will not help day-to-day problems - Wolverhampton Council leader

The Chancellor should have "spent more on people" in the Budget to help alleviate day-to-day problems, a council boss has said.

Councillor Ian Brookfield, leader of Wolverhampton Council.
Councillor Ian Brookfield, leader of Wolverhampton Council.

Councillor Ian Brookfield, the leader of Wolverhampton Council, said the Budget had been a positive one for infrastructure in the city after a project was handed £20 million.

But he argued "nothing" was being done to help those who are struggling in the city who are trying to put food on the table, or light their homes.

It comes after the city received funding for its City Learning Quarter and the region received more than £1 billion in transport funding for schemes.

Councillor Brookfield said: "It's a good budget for Wolverhampton infrastructure but a poor budget for Wolverhampton people.

"It's infrastructure heavy and yet the real issues people are facing – with rising inflation, rising prices, less money available, higher bills – it's going to do nothing to alleviate people's day-to-day, week-to-week problems.

"What he could've done, we know it's [one of] the highest tax takes in history – which is unusual for a Conservative Government – he should've spent more on people. He accepts about inflation going to four per cent, bills will continue to rise. And in the budget red book, that's hundreds of pages long, he has set the council tax for the next three years at three per cent [increases] – more rises and increases for people.

"I'm sorry he didn't take the opportunity to help people. Whilst it's nice to get 3p off a pint, we don't all drink or go to the pub. People are trying to put food on the table and light their homes – that's the most important thing."

Councillor Brookfield said he wished there was more for people in the budget, adding whilst it's always welcome to have "shiny new buildings" people were still feeling worse off and they are struggling.

Councillor Wendy Thompson, leader of the Conservative Group on the council, dismissed the claims and said the Chancellor had put forward a string of measures to help who are struggling the most.

She said: "We've gone through a terrible time with regards to Covid and industry and businesses have had a difficult time of it. And the Chancellor, in the Budget, wanted to particularly help those at the bottom end and recognise public services – like for schools and for the NHS.

"He has been very helpful to Wolverhampton and he is making sure the City Learning Quarter is going ahead. The skills base in Wolverhampton is very low and people have not been able to reach the higher-skilled jobs and Rishi wants a higher skilled workforce to help them get those jobs, which is of benefit to everyone."

Councillor Thompson said the move to reduce the Universal Credit taper rate – the amount of money which is withdrawn for every pound someone earns – by eight per cent will help people across the city.

And she cited money for apprenticeships, a reduction in business rates, £44bn to cut NHS waiting times, increasing the National Living Wage to £9.50 for those aged 23 as well as increasing the national minimum wage, as ways the Chancellor was helping out those in the city and across the country.

Other funding announced in The Budget saw Cannock receive £20m for a new town centre cultural hub and the refurbishment of the Prince of Wales Theatre – and cash was also handed out to regenerate old industrial sites for housing and a new adult numeracy skills programme.

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