YP Comment: Budget choices for Hammond - Spending still faces squeeze

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will deliver his Autumn Statement next week (PA).
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will deliver his Autumn Statement next week (PA).
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AUSTERITY is one of the buzz words of the age, and it would be unrealistic to expect it not to feature prominently in Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement next week.

AUSTERITY is one of the buzz words of the age, and it would be unrealistic to expect it not to feature prominently in Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement next week.

There is unlikely to be any relaxation of the squeeze on day-to-day spending instituted by his predecessor, George Osborne. Although the Government has scrapped the target of eliminating the budgetary deficit by 2020 as unrealistic, there is precious little room for manoeuvre and tight controls remain in place.

But there is some evidence that the public is beginning to lose patience with the mantra of austerity that has been so repeatedly preached since 2010.

The State of the State report by Deloitte shows a growing appetite in Britain to pay higher taxes for better public services.

Such findings must be treated with a degree of caution, since it is one thing to favour higher taxes in a survey, and quite another to find with dismay that a wage packet has been diminished by a greater slice going to the Treasury.

Yet it is illustrative of the value that Britain places on its public services, with healthcare and schools predictably enough identified as priorities.

There is also a marked level of scepticism as to whether Brexit will result in any improvements to those key services.

This all adds up to a dilemma for the Chancellor in shaping the economy at a time of world economic uncertainty that is only likely to be deepened here by the implications of Brexit.

If, as is widely expected, he announces an emphasis on major infrastructure projects to boost the economy, that is very welcome news.

But it also begs the question of how these can be delivered whilst the squeeze on public services and local authority budgets continues. Squaring that circle will require all Mr Hammond’s ingenuity.

Autism hope - Raising profile of disability

AUTISM remains one of the most common disabilities in Britain, yet one of the least-recognised, which creates additional challenges for those with it.

The Yorkshire Post has in the past campaigned to raise awareness of the condition, which can leave autistic people isolated, feeling vulnerable and having difficulties in communicating.

And because the autistic will often display no obvious signs of having a disability, society can treat them with far less sensitivity and consideration than it customarily affords to those with other disabilities. The result is that the world can seem a frightening, and even cruel, place.

There is much still to be done in increasing public awareness and understanding of this disability, which to large numbers of the public remains hidden. With understanding, life can be made much better for the autistic.

Quirky though it may seem, York man Andrew Robertson’s determination to remain locked in a glass box for 50 hours on public display until Saturday, makes both an important point about autism and a laudable attempt to increase public understanding.

The charity he is supporting, Caudwell Children, says that parents of the 133,500 children currently diagnosed with autism often compare their struggles to communicate with trying to break out of an invisible box.

This is an eye-catching way of shining a light on a disability that needs to be much more widely-recognised. Mr Robertson deserves every success, and if he succeeds in raising awareness of autism, his 50 hours in a box will have been well worthwhile.

Good signposting aids tourism

YORKSHIRE’S countryside offers endless delights to visitors and makes a vital contribution to our tourism economy, so ensuring it is well signposted is a matter of great importance.

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak’s success in obtaining permission for brown tourist signs to Wensleydale on the A1 – hopefully to be followed by similar signs for Swaledale – is to be welcomed.

Visitors will be richly rewarded if they follow the signs, and all attempts to boost tourism deserve to be supported. But the fact that special dispensation has to be sought for the sensible and sensitive signposting of beauty spots is indicative of the Government’s often sluggish attitude to rural tourism.

This was a point made with some force by Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity to MPs this week, when he warned that opportunities are being missed to attract overseas tourists to the countryside. They would do well to 
heed him.