BILLIONS in extra cash have been promised by all parties after nearly a decade of austerity. Local Democracy Reporter JOSEPH TIMAN speaks to candidates about their spending priorities.

GOVERNMENT debt stands at £1.8 trillion pounds, equivalent to 85 per cent of the total economy, the most recent figures show.

This comes after years of cuts justified by the need to bring debt down – but it has actually gone up.

Last year, the then Prime Minister Theresa May declared that the government’s programme of austerity was “over”.

But almost a decade after the Conservatives started cutting public spending while in coalition with the Lib Dems, opponents argue that austerity was a “political choice” and not necessary.

Most agree that the cuts have gone too far and their impact is not over.

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Now the Tories say the country is ready to start spending again after they managed the economy “really well”.

And under new leadership, they have committed to spending billions – but so have Labour, Lib Dems, the Green and Brexit Party.


The Bolton News:

THE Conservatives have promised an extra £1bn a year for social care, £750m towards 20,000 additional police officers and £2.5bn to create 10,000 prison places.

It also wants to spend £2.2bn on the armed forces, £14bn on schools and £100bn on infrastructure including the Northern Powerhouse Rail project.

It expects to raise revenue by keeping cooperation tax at 19 per cent, introducing a plastic packaging tax and clamping down on £400m worth of tax avoidance and evasion by 2024.

Bolton North East candidate Mark Logan is adamant that austerity is over.

He said: "We have a change in government, we have a change in leader and now it’s a time where we can loosen the purse string of UK plc and start spending on the most important issues that affect people on the doors."

Mr Logan said that he would lobby for more "bobbies on the beat" in Bolton North East and wants to see a "holistic" approach to transport, promoting Bolton as a logistics hub.

Bolton South East candidate Johno Lee admits that austerity was "difficult" and said that he is glad it is over.

He wants the government to spend more on "failing towns" like Farnworth.

Justifying cuts to public spending, he said that residents in his constituency understand why the government had to make "pretty strict" decisions.

He said: "Anybody that’s lived in Bolton South East knows what it’s like to budget. If you’re in debt then you have to budget. And I think that’s what the government did. They budgeted."

Bolton West candidate Chris Green said restricting spending was necessary but believes that austerity went too far in local government and policing.

He said: “The number one issue for my constituents, law and order, better policing, better policing presence, and when the police actually apprehend the suspects, better sentencing is given and delivered."


The Bolton News:

LABOUR wants to spend an extra £82.9bn a year funded by raising corporation tax to 26 per cent, income tax for those earning above £80,000 and some borrowing.

It wants to spend £10.8bn on social care including free care for over-65s, abolish tuition fees and restore the maintenance allowance, a net cost of £7.2bn and invest £20bn in local government to tackle homelessness and reopen SureStart centres.

Bolton South East candidate Yasmin Qureshi said that austerity was "ideologically driven" because the Tories believe in a "smaller state".

She said: “Austerity is not over, certainly not in my constituency where 45 per cent of children are living in poverty, where a huge number of working people are using food banks. We have issues of the hospital waiting lists, we have social issues. In work poverty has gone up."

Bolton West candidate Julie Hilling agreed, saying that austerity was a "political choice" which has left the social safety net "threadbare".

She admitted that both parties had to look at how the economy would recover in 2010, but criticised the Tories for making mistakes.

But she asked, if austerity is over, then why would Bolton Council need to find £23m of cuts this year.

She said: “We are the sixth richest country in the world but we have more and more people sleeping on our streets, more and more people working all week but still needing to go to a foodbank, disabled children unable to go to school because the schools can’t afford support teachers and the disabled and elderly unable to get the care they need. But we are the sixth richest country. So the government is making a choice and it’s the wrong choice."

“I don’t want to hear any more children to say that we eek out our food. We’re hungry all the time but we eek out or food so that we’ve got something for the next meal."

When asked about Labour's policy to provide free full-fibre broadband for all and renationalise parts of BT, she stressed the importance of the need to access the internet to claim benefits, contact schools and get prescriptions.

She added: “The only way we’re going to grow our economy equally across our areas is to ensure that we have access to high-speed broadband and the private sector has absolutely failed to do this.”

But Bolton North East candidate Sir David Crausby said that this is not the right time to be pursuing such a policy. He said: “I think it’s a good thing to do but in my opinion we’ve a lot more to put right before we deliver free broadband. That’s not to say that free broadband wouldn’t be a very good thing but it wouldn’t be high up within my priorities."

Instead, he wants to focus on the NHS, which he said is in "crisis", the police force and defence to "protect families", which he described as the "most important pound" spent.

Liberal Democrats

The Bolton News:

THE Lib Dems argue that staying in the EU will secure a £50bn "Remain Bonus" as a result of economic growth.

They would use this to invest £10.5bn in schools and provide 35 hours a week of free childcare for working parents from nine months and all children aged two until school, costing £13bn.

They would raise income tax by 1p and return corporation tax to 20 per cent. They also expect to gain £1.5bn in duty and savings by legalising cannabis.

Bolton South East candidate Kev Walsh defended the Lib Dems' record in the coalition government from 2010.

He said: "So many other cuts and measures were put in past 2015. That's when it started to go further than it should have."

Bolton North East candidate Warren Fox believes that cuts have now gone too deep and for too long.

He said: "We won’t make high-flown promises of economic spending that cannot be kept and push us back into a financial crisis, but a sincere promise to vote for the good of all the community.

"This is why we have set aside significant amounts of money to invest in infrastructure, adult learning and education, as well as the 35 hours free childcare from nine months and much more. We will also use the £50bn Remain Bonus to invest in our public services and fight inequality.

"The Liberal Democrats offer financial responsibility, using targeted spending to cut deprivation, balance wealth in the economy and create a fairer society.”

Bolton West candidate Rebecca Forrest's top spending priorities are housing and infrastructure which she said successive governments have not paid enough attention to.

She said: “We need social housing so badly and the developers are currently exploiting the system. Apart from the actual housing itself it’s the infrastructure that seems to have been ignored by everybody for years.

"Bolton West is bursting at the seams on the roads. The major routes, and even some of the lesser routes are so congested, it’s just not acceptable. And yet we’re trying to put more and more houses in places onto these routes."

Green Party

The Bolton News:

THE Green Party promises a Green New Deal to tackle the climate emergency and deliver social justice.

This involves funding improvements in energy, housing, transport, industry, food, farming and forestry.

It would to spend an extra £141.5bn a year paid for by a mixture of tax reforms and savings measures.

It also wants to spend £94.4bn of capital expenditure, raised through government borrowing.

Candidates standing in Bolton believe that austerity was a political choice and they want climate change to be at the top of the agenda for the next government.

Bolton West candidate Paris Hayes explained why.

He said: “The climate crisis will end up costing us far more money if we don’t solve it now. Parts of the Lancashire coast would be completely under water. That’s trillion of pounds just there. We’re going to see increased flooding, increased high-powered weather events. At what price do we put people’s health happiness and homes?"

Bolton North East candidate Liz Spencer defended the Green Party's borrowing plans, saying that all countries borrow for long-term investments.

She fears austerity would be "back with a vengeance" if the Conservatives return to power. She said: “We’re now hearing all these grand spending plans from the magic money tree that wasn’t here in 2017 has suddenly turned into some kind of fiscal forest. It begs the question how it has happened and the question whether you believe it. Do you believe that it will be over?”

As part of the proposed social reforms, the Green Party wants to introduce Universal Basic Income.

Bolton South East candidate David Figgins, who has "championed" the policy for many years, explained how it works.

He said: “Whether you’re unemployed or disabled, or whether you’re earning £50,000 a year or more, everybody would get the UBI which we propose would be £89 per week. It would result in around a six per cent increase in disposable income over five years for people in full time work. That would stimulate economic growth and that’s part of our green new deal.”

Brexit Party

The Bolton News:

THE Brexit Party wants to cancel HS2, save 50 per cent of the foreign aid budget and save another £13bn a year in payments to the EU.

It would invest "billions" in regional road and rail schemes, high streets and young people.

Bolton South East candidate Mark Cunningham supports the Tory promise of 20,000 new police officers but believes it will still fall short.

He wants a review of all public spending to make sure its effective but said he would not stand for party that would "sell the NHS".

The Kearsley councillor said austerity went too far and believes some cuts need to be redressed focusing on defence among other areas like the NHS and fire service.

He said: “Our army now stands at something around 90,000. It’s ridiculous. It’s just not big enough in its current form. If we do intend to go back to being an independent country, then we need to recruit.

“There’s a lot to be gained in expanding our armed forces, air force, navy and army. It’s not just about the defence side of it, it’s about skilling people in many aspects in all of the forces in the actual high-skilled jobs that you’ve got within the forces.

“If they do their own training then it can go some way to redress the state of apprenticeship systems. We’ve got too lax in the way that we organise apprenticeships. The new system for apprenticeships doesn’t seem to be as good as the old system that we got rid of."

Bolton North East candidate Trevor Jones also wants more "proper" three to five-year apprenticeships which are paid well enough for apprentices to be "invested" in their work.

The building company boss believes austerity was necessary but said that more needs to be done to help the elderly, arguing that pensioners get "absolutely nothing".

He said: “It was necessary to get the house in order. Everybody who borrows money doesn’t understand it needs to be paid back as quick as we can. There’s so much wrong in this country that needs changing. But there’s enough money to share wealth a little bit more."