AUSTERITY is over, that is what we were promised – both by the Prime Minister at Conservative Party Conference and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as he gave his budget speech last week.

The Conservatives have spent eight years running down our schools, local services and NHS.

Let’s look at the facts.

Starting with schools, The National Audit Office says that between 2015 and 2018, school budgets were cut by £2.7bn. Schools face the first cuts to spending per pupil since the turn of the millennium.

Then there are councils who have faced cuts amounting to £4bn: 600 youth centres have gone and 3,500 youth workers made redundant.

If we look at health; £8bn in cuts to social care since 2010 have affected the elderly and people with disabilities. This means 1.4m older people who do not have access to the care and support that they need. This has had a direct impact on the NHS leading to health trusts ending up with deficits of nearly £1bn, and threats to local services like the Horton Hospital and the closure of Banbury’s courts.

Meanwhile in the same period, corporations have had £110bn in tax giveaways.

Then there is the damage that has been done to our economy: low growth, lower than the EU, lower than the US, lower than British historic trends. Standards of living have been stretched with stagnant wages and increasing costs for housing, utilities and food – and that’s before Brexit.

So with that legacy, what have we got from this budget?

There is good stuff on the high streets and on business rates: a digital services tax so that companies like Amazon and Google to level the playing field is a good thing.

Fixing up potholes is great but it does nothing to patch up the black hole in the finances of councils which provide local services.

But where is the investment in our towns and in its infrastructure? People in Banbury and Bicester are still expected to drive to cities like Oxford and to access services.

The promise of 13,000 houses built with housing associations is hardly transformative: it’s around 30 houses per area. In Cherwell there are over a thousand on the waiting list for a house – barely touching the sides.

As for the announcement on health, £2bn for mental health sounds great but it is smoke and mirrors. In reality, this is part of the money that Theresa May announced for the NHS during the World Cup, and it is still only half of what independent experts say is needed and will be phased in over the next five years.

Our national failure to properly deal with mental health early and properly puts pressure on the police, on social services and on the NHS – services that are already over-stretched.

Like the Duke of York’s men we were led up the hill and down again with promises of an end to austerity. It’s sad that my scepticism has been vindicated yet again.