It is unsurprising that Peter Booth, as South West Conservative chairman, should put a strong spin on the recent budget, and he strains every sinew almost to the point of rupture to achieve it.

Claims of a "healthy" economy, while superficially accurate, hide real worries: high employment figures mask serious levels of under-employment, with zero-hours contracts, short hours where more hours are desired, bogus "self-employment", and unused over-qualification.

Productivity is consequently poor by international standards. Wages for many are at a level where in-work homelessness is growing, along with increasing reliance on in-work benefits and food-banks.

These are rather the signs of a dysfunctional economy.

Beyond that, mental health services are broken - dating back, arguably to Mr Booth's party's 1990 Mental Care Act which, though heralding potentially better mental health care, failed because it was misused as an excuse to save money rather than as an opportunity to invest in something worthwhile.

The results can be seen today in the wasted lives which meet with such complaints in our streets, and in a prison service which is at or beyond breaking point.

A high proportion of both groups have untreated or inadequately treated mental health problems, a point more shaming when the number of damaged service people are identified in the numbers.

The current inhumane levels of inadequacy in children's mental health care add to these problems, and Mrs May's recent say-so will not make a significant difference because the highly trained personnel are not available, a problem which affects – one suspects deliberate sabotage – a range of social services including the NHS and education.

The police, meanwhile, are unable to deal with many of the crimes that are of most concern to many of us.

The Chancellor's reduction in income tax looks irresponsible, especially since the greatest benefit will be felt by those who least need it and who, for the most part, have not been affected by austerity as much as many in greater need. Indeed, they have seen their wealth increase.

I have never been a member of any political party, and it is not my remit to defend the Blair/Brown Labour Government, but in fairness it might be granted that they faced a huge challenge, in which they were partially successful, to repair the social damage left by the Thatcher/Major years.

Moreover, in so far as Mr Brown shared responsibility for the collapse of the economy in 2008 - and it was a problem that was far greater than the UK – the blame comes from his too readily accepting the benefits of the under-regulated free market inherited from the Conservative years.

The high levels of unsecured personal debt currently propping up the economy suggest that the lessons from that debacle have not been fully digested.


Romulus Close, Dorchester