Well it’s hard to remember a budget falling apart as quickly as George Osborne’s latest one has!
On Budget Day the Chancellor was in command of his world. He told a great story! But within 24 hours the facts were catching up with him. Conservative MPs to their credit joined Labour MPs, like myself, to say that the cuts to disability payments were a cut too far. So he dropped the £4.4 billion of savings his cuts to the disabled would have yielded. He’s still going ahead though with the £2.3 billion cut in Employment Support Allowance which affects many of the same people. With this change made the Chancellor came back to the Commons to push his Budget through. But he wouldn’t tell us how he will fill this £4.4 billion black hole now evident in his figures. If a local council tried to set a budget that didn’t add up it would be prevented from setting an illegal budget. But our Conservative Government just shrugs its shoulders, smiles and presses on!
It is pressing on with the nonsense of forcing all schools to become academies whether parents or schools want it. This is an absurd distraction for great local school leaders – like Ben Lawrence of Frederick Gough who spelt out so powerfully in last week’s Scunthorpe Telegraph what a waste of time and energy this is. There is absolutely no evidence to support the forced academisation of successful schools. And it’s not as though there aren’t things going wrong on this most ideological of Government’s watch; things they really ought to be putting right. The Conservatives preside over the biggest teacher recruitment crisis for decades, a growing school places crisis and impending chaos over their poorly managed, rushed changes to exams. In addition we have careers education in its worst state ever and post-16 seriously underfunded with potentially devastating consequences. The Conservative schools agenda is purely ideological. They think they know better than parents or communities what’s best for our children. That’s why they are removing the right of parents to be governors of their children’s schools at the same time as insisting on all schools becoming academies. And when we asked the Secretary of State to rule out good or outstanding schools being taken over by failing Multi Academy Trusts she refused to do so. Flabbergasting! Only last month Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools called on the Government to act to deal with the failures of 7 large Multi Academy Trusts, including the 2 biggest that run 113 schools between them. And only last week Perry Beeches Trust, that runs 5 Birmingham schools and has been lauded by the Conservatives, was found to be in serious breach of financial regulations. Perhaps the Government would better spend its energies sorting out the problems in current academies and other failing schools and leave the ones, like Frederick Gough and others locally, who are doing a good job to get on with doing exactly that.