Last week began with parliament adjusting to the news of the Work and Pension Secretary’s resignation over the Chancellor’s Budget proposals to cut disability benefits within the Personal Independent Payments. There were turbo charged exchanges in the Commons whilst the Conservative Government’s Budget began to fall apart. The Chancellor finally emerged to confirm that he was withdrawing the measures that had led to the resignation but couldn’t tell us where the £4.4 billion was now coming from!
By the middle of the week other aspects of the Budget were falling apart with Conservative Council leaders joining parent groups and others to denounce the Tory Government’s plans to remove parents’ right to sitting on schools governing bodies and to force all schools to academise by 2022. This is ideological nonsense and it’s not surprising that Mumsnet has added its voice to those opposing it. The Conservative Government would do better to spend its time tackling the problems of teacher recruitment, school places supply and exam chaos already happening on its watch!
By the end of the week the suggestion in the Budget that areas like Greater Lincolnshire and East Anglia were being criticised by Conservative Council leaders! I met with the Chief Executive of the Hull and Humber Chamber who once again expressed business leaders’ concerns about the devolution deal losing the focus on getting the best for the area around the Humber Estuary with its huge opportunity in terms of renewables.
I attended the launch of a positive, constructive report by Tata and IPPR on what needs to be done to support foundation industries like steel. This comes at a crucial point as the Greybull Capital process of acquisition nears – hopefully successful – conclusion. And Port Talbot is seen to be fighting for its life pitching turn around plans to Tata’s Indian Board. All a reminder that the UK Government still hasn’t done enough to level the playing field for UK steel. One of the big disappointments of the Budget is that they could have done more on – for example – business rates and chose not to.
It was good to present prizes to winners of the Access Awards at the Keith Fletcher Awards for the fifth year running and to join colleagues from across the sixth form college sector for David Igoe’s retirement event from the role of Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association in the House of Commons.
I dropped into the launch of Pancreatic Cancer UK’s Patient Charter and joined others for World TB Day – this is the world’s biggest infectious killer and it’s crucial we up our game through the Global Fund infighting it as it is very beatable!!!
Finally it was good to see the return of Graham Alexander to Scunthorpe United as the new manager reworded with a good draw at Barnsley and an excellent 6.0 win at home to Swindon. Up the Iron!!!!