Here's what Fylde coast MPs Scott Benton and Cat Smith said about 2021 Budget in Parliament debate

Fylde coast MPs Scott Benton and Cat Smith offered up clashing opinions about the annual UK Budget in a debate in Parliament this week.

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 1:39 pm

Blackpool South MP Benton called the Budget “truly inspiring”, while Fleetwood MP Smith called it “smoke and mirrors” as Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised £560m to youth services - £500m of which was included in a pledge dating back two years, but has yet to be delivered.

The Budget was announced last week, with plans to increase health spending, increase the national minimum wage, and introduce a 50 per cent discount in business rates for those in the leisure, retail and hospitality sector.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Mr Benton said: "NHS funding will rise by £44 billion throughout this Parliament, demonstrating that we are the real party of the NHS. Blackpool has some of the poorest health outcomes in the whole country. When the Prime Minister speaks of levelling up, people expect to see real change in their lives, and this unprecedented investment in our NHS will help to deliver just that, with thousands more GP appointments for my constituents, a £13 million pound upgrade to my local A&E, and a commitment like we have never seen before to close the unacceptable differences in life expectancy between central Blackpool and other parts of the country that have persisted for a generation."

He also welcomed an increase in the schools budget, and an increase in the national living wage which he said would 'deliver a £1,000 pay rise to thousands of my constituents in low-paid jobs'.

He said: "(The Budget) focuses our welfare system on those who are willing to meet the state halfway by working hard. This is exactly what a Conservative Government should be doing."

But Ms Smith said the 2021 Budget did not properly support youth investment, with a £450m cut in funding for young workers.

She said: "To give some context, youth work in England has seen a 73 per cent cut in the past 11 years. That has had consequences. It has seen 940 youth centres closed and 4,500 qualified youth workers no longer working in frontline youth work—a figure that rises to about 13,000 if we take youth and community workers together. The National Youth Agency estimates that about £1 billion less per year is being spent on youth work than a decade ago.

"I feel incredibly passionate about youth work, so I was glad two years ago when the Government announced a £500 million youth investment fund. The only trouble is that not a penny of that has been spent in the past two years. When the Chancellor announced £560 million for youth funding, I was immediately suspicious, because I had already heard about £500 million for the youth investment fund, which we had not seen a penny of in two years.

"It is no surprise that the £560 million that has just been announced included that £500 million, so we could argue it was just a £60 million funding announcement.

"However, it gets worse, because when we read the small print in this Budget, we discover that the National Citizen Service funding is included in that money. Once we start crunching the numbers, we soon realise that the Budget includes a £450 million cut to youth services.

"Our young people will get £450 million a year less under this Budget, yet the Chancellor stood at the Dispatch Box and announced a £560 million investment. That is smoke and mirrors; it is deceiving to the young people and youth workers around the country, who have had a really difficult time over the past two years."

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