Commenting ahead of the Chancellor’s Budget on 3 March, Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham said:
“Our communities have been through a bruising twelve months and this Budget is an opportunity to rebuild the economy, give areas like ours the investment they need, and provide more comprehensive support to people and businesses.
“This pandemic has highlighted the stark inequalities in health and wealth faced by people in Stockton North comparted with much of the rest of the country. My constituency has a child poverty rate of 34 per cent, and two out five children in households on Universal Credit are not eligible for free school meals. The Budget must urgently address this. I want to see the Chancellor commit to keep the Universal Credit increase which has been a lifeline for thousands of people in the Tees Valley, ensure those on so-called “legacy benefits” are helped, and extend support to those millions of people excluded from any kind of financial assistance.
“I also want to see the Budget provide funding for a much needed hospital for Stockton-on-Tees. In parts of my constituency a man lives 18 years less than a man a mile down the road. We need modern, state of the art facilities to tackle this and other health concerns than affect my constituents. A new hospital would provide both for our health and our local economy, as the building of it could provide new jobs and training opportunities for local people. With 12,500 jobs lost in the Tees Valley since the start of the pandemic, good quality well-paid employment in my area is needed.
“We need to see an extension of the furlough scheme, and a package of measures such as VAT cuts for the hospitality and leisure sector to ensure they can weather the next few months of lockdown and get back on their feet. Similarly the culture sector – of which there is a vibrant scene in Stockton-on-Tees – needs to be given extra support while it awaits the nod to re-open.
“This is not a time to raise taxes for political reasons or cut support. We might be turning a corner on the pandemic but the economic impact of the health restrictions will be longer lasting. The Chancellor needs to show he is on the side of our communities and ensure they are properly supported as we enter the post-Covid world.”