Today’s budget was a classic case of a Tory Government giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
The Chancellor claims he is part of a government which will act to offset the effects of inflation and rising consumer prices, but there was no indication of action on the cost-of-living crisis in this budget. Notably, there was nothing to help people to help with gas and electricity bills, including Labour’s sensible ask for a VAT cut on energy costs.
Whilst I welcome the decision to cut the Universal Credit taper rate from 63p to 55p. A lone parent claiming Universal Credit on minimum wage will still lose an estimated £361 next year, and millions will still be impacted by the £20 a week, £1000 a year cut to Universal Credit – including thousands here in Newport East. As Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves highlighted, working people on Universal Credit still pay a higher rate of tax than the Prime Minister.
There was no reference to steel in today’s budget, which UK Steel have already rightly called a ‘triumph of complacency’. There was no hint of action on the sky-high industrial energy costs which hold back British steel manufacturers, and no allocation of funding to the Clean Steel Fund and decarbonisation support for the sector. Steel can play a vital role in the Net Zero agenda, and the fact this wasn’t even acknowledged ahead of COP26 next week represents a massive missed opportunity.
Elsewhere, the government boasted of recruiting ‘new’ or ‘extra’ police officers – but as the Chair of the Police Federation has highlighted, the new recruits are only a partial replacement for 21,000 officers and thousands of police staff lost over the last decade. Forces like Gwent, who faced a 40% cut to their budget from 2010-2020, deserve a fairer funding settlement from the government to deal with the many challenges they face: from anti-social behaviour in our communities to new and emerging forms of crime, including cyber crime. There was nothing in the Chancellor’s statement today to suggest that this government is serious about giving our police the support they need and deserve.
As with any budget, the devil is in the detail and we will await further clarification of the Chancellor’s references to ‘accelerated’ funding for the Cardiff City Region deal and the grant for Welsh Government. As expected, there was still no news on funding allocations or timescales UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is set to replace EU structural funds in Wales in elsewhere. The Chancellor made one vague reference to how it will replace EU funding “over time”. That’s nothing to go by.
One repeated theme in the Chancellor’s budget today was a reference to the last ten years, or ‘pre-2010 spending levels’. Crucially missing was an acknowledgement of the fact that the Conservatives have been in power for the last decade – over which time inequalities have become more intrenched, and public services starved of resources.
Rather than addressing this in his statement today, the Budget made this government’s out-of-touch priorities clear. As he hits working people with the highest sustained tax burden in peacetime, he’s giving a tax cut to bankers who like to take short haul flights while sipping champagne! After taking £6 billion out of the pockets of some of the poorest people in this country, he is expecting them to cheer today at being given £2 billion to compensate.
There is another way. Labour would put working people first. We’d use the power of government and the skill of business to ensure the next generation of quality jobs are created here in Britain. We’d tax fairly, we’d spend wisely and after a decade of anaemic growth we’d get Britain’s economy firing on all cylinders. Today’s Budget did make one thing clear – the country needs change.