YEP Says (Nov 26): Cuts, u-turns, potholes and a pitch for power

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It was a speech lasting just over an hour – but the ramifications of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement will be felt for a long time to come.

It was a speech warning of impending storms, a speech that inflicted £12bn cuts on key public services, a speech undoubtedly welcomed by the police (no cuts, after all) and by those who had demanded a halt to his planned raid on tax credits (an almighty U-turn).

It was a speech that promised the largest road investment and largest house-building programme since the 1970s. It was also a political pitch for power by George Osborne in which he went all out to reaffirm his position as David Cameron’s most likely successor.

The Chancellor surprised many by announcing that the state of the public finances had improved by £27bn since the summer Budget in July, and that the Government is still on track to record a surplus by 2019-20.

This goes a long way to explaining why he could protect police spending, frontload previously promised additional investment in the NHS and reverse those controversial changes to tax credits which threatened to penalise the very people who are striving to become less dependent on the benevolence of the welfare system.

While also not deviating from his primary purpose to make the country’s finances more resilient to withstand future turbulence in the global economy – he is clearly determined to make the most of the fact that Britain is now the best performing G7 country.

Yet two big imponderables remain.

The first is the precise identity of the services to be cut – the Chancellor was at pains to point out those areas of spending that will be protected.

The other is Yorkshire’s devolution deal – this remains the one region which has not yet reached an agreement with the Treasury on its future governance.

Mr Osborne should be experienced enough to realise that both will be critical to making sure that this Autumn Statement transforms Yorkshire and the North into the economic powerhouse that he so envisages.

And finally, on the back of his announcement about the creation of a Permanent Pothole Fund, just how many potholes will it fill, Mr Osborne? Can we give you a list?


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