It seems the overall message of this week’s budget announcement was an admission that 10 years of austerity was a deliberate choice and ultimately a failed experiment.
There are some things to welcome in the budget, but still some big problems.
The Tory Party have created a £192bn hole in infrastructure spending over the last 10 years and now want to be congratulated for half-filling it.
There is no evidence of a zero-carbon infrastructure plan. Plans for green investment are woeful.
I was especially keen to see more details of the Shared Prosperity Fund, which we need for continued economic growth in Blaenau Gwent.
What I found was more vague words about “levelling up” the economy of Wales and the same bold promise to match current EU funding as a minimum.
We still have no real idea what this means or how it will work and I will be pushing for clarity in the coming months.

Understandably many of you will be very concerned about the Coronavirus.
Public health and safety must come first. All Government decisions should meet this aim and all parties must work together to tackle this emergency.
The UK is a world leader in infectious disease control, and I am confident NHS staff will do their absolute best in very difficult circumstances.
The UK Government must come through on its promise to provide whatever extra resources the NHS needs to cope in the coming weeks.
In the budget, the Chancellor rightly announced measures to support workers who need to self-isolate, but the plans still fall short of what is needed.
There was nothing in the announcements that extends statutory sick pay for those on zero-hours contracts, those in part-time work and those low paid workers earning less than £118 per week.
Instead the chancellor has directed these workers to the broken benefit system.
This isn’t good enough.
People should not be faced with a choice of doing the right thing or otherwise facing hardship.

Access to cash
I have spent a lot of time over the last year or so calling on the Government to protect access to cash.
In Blaenau Gwent we have lost the majority of our banks and 39% of our ATMs charge people to access their own money.
In recent weeks I wrote to the Chancellor to call for legislation to be brought forward to ensure the future of the ATM network and also asked the Leader of the House how the Government plans to protect free access to cash.
I was pleased to see it announced in the budget that measures are now set to be put in place to protect access to cash.
I will be keeping a close eye on this in the coming weeks and pushing for strong legislation to ensure that cash is always accessible to those who need it.

Here, in Blaenau Gwent, Cwm and Llanhilleth suffered the worst of Storm Dennis and the effects are still being felt by many.
Locally, people rallied together and stepped up to support their neighbours, demonstrating that brilliant Blaenau Gwent community spirit.
Staff and volunteers at Llanhilleth Miners Institute did a fantastic job in providing support and respite during the worst of the flooding.
The Welsh Labour Government stepped up in the aftermath of the storms, setting up a £10m emergency fund to provide relief money for households affected.
The Conservative Government failed miserably to provide the same level of support for Wales. The Prime Minister disappeared altogether.
When he finally surfaced at PMQs he was challenged by Merthyr’s Labour MP Gerald Jones who called for a “cast-iron” guarantee of new funding to help Wales.
Mr Johnson responded that cash would be ‘passported through’ to the Welsh Government to provide assistance. It is difficult to take comfort in this promise.
My fellow Welsh Labour MPs and I will ensure to hold this Government to account over this and see that Mr Johnson keeps his word.

It was great to welcome so many British Steel Pension Scheme members to Parliament to allow them to raise their concerns about the pensions crisis, which saw thousands of hardworking people ripped off by rogue advisers.
Now what we need is improved coordination by the main agencies, for steelworkers who might have been given poor advice to be informed directly, a crackdown against unscrupulous claims management companies and more efficient compensation and complaint procedures.
This campaign continues to move forward and I am determined to make sure that a scandal like this cannot happen again.

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