Well that’s fine then. We’ve a highly responsible prime minister in charge backed up by a chancellor who understands the needs of the poorest in society and is looking out for them. We’ve got the economy back on track and the benefits of Brexit are soon to arrive.
Project bitter reality is that this country has a cynical opportunist as chancellor implementing policies set by the most irresponsible and untrustworthy leader this country has ever had.
Cost of living outstrips any pay rises
The promise is that the Conservatives are looking after hard-working families and ending public sector pay freezes. The reality is that, thanks mainly to Brexit, inflation is already 4 percent and it is rising fast. Any gains will fall far short of cost of living rises, that not all will receive.
Teachers, nurses, police and care workers are actually almost certain to face yet another cut in the value of their pay. Plus, a rise in their national insurance contributions. Plus, the removal of £20 a week of universal credit for those who wages remain so low that after working flat out all week they still have to rely on state help and food banks. The chancellor made much of a headline promise to taper the impact of the £20 cut. He failed to mention, and thus belittled, the very real impact his reduction will have on hundreds of thousands of hard-up people.
The promise is that the Conservatives are pouring extra funding into the NHS and social care. The reality is a demoralised workforce struggling to cope with the pressures and the extra costs created by the worst covid outbreak in the world. One that is still being stoked by a government that announced freedom day and then let people choose whether they feel like complying with even the most basic covid precautions.
The reality is loss of valued staff to Brexit who have not been possible to replace. The reality is no new funding for care homes right now when they need it. Instead, they face extra costs via increases in minimum wages and employers’ national insurance contributions, which have been boldly announced without a penny of new money for public services to pay it to their staff.
Rhetoric vs reality
The headline announcements are about new rail projects for the north of England. The reality is they have decided to put tough spending limits on the single most important investment project for the north – the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme. The reality is a gap in funding on public transport infrastructure, which sees £309 per head invested in Yorkshire whilst £882 per head is invested in London.
The fine words are about green being good and about the Conservatives claiming to be the party that protects the environment. The reality is they still think greed is good and they still think we can consume our way out of a problem created by over-consuming the planet’s capital. Investment has been channelled into grants to install heat pumps. Something that will mainly take place in larger suburban properties where there is the space for them.
There is not a penny of new funding for an effective programme of renovation and insulation of inner-city homes that could cut their fuel bills whilst reducing our dependence on expensive imported gas. The government is trying to get the country to produce more but to do it a bit differently. What is actually needed is to massively reduce wasteful consumption and to launch a radical transformatio in in the way we produce, distribute and market.
Deeply irresponsible decision-making
Even the few words that do seem to be backed up with serious money, going in the right direction, turn out to be a cover up for deeply irresponsible decision-making.
It is fantastic that we finally have a government that is talking about putting significant amounts of new money into further education and skills. It would be a lot better if much of that money wasn’t wasted on a fantasy project of T levels, which involves betting the house on young people choosing to specialise on a brand new qualification that no one can be certain of the value of. Instead of intelligently channelling money into helping adults to constantly retrain throughout their lives, the bulk of the money has been frittered away on a daft ideological obsession of a few backbench far-right MPs.
Can there be any sillier way of tackling a serious problem than sloganizing about a ‘skills boot camp’?
Where are the measures to curb tax avoidance by investment bankers? Where is the funding for building council houses instead of so-called ‘affordable’ ones? When will the people facing bills to remove dangerous cladding from their flats get proper compensation from the government that took money from building developers to weaken building regulations? All they got was a token gesture. Why did the chancellor choose to leave intact the huge allowance of £1m that can be inherited in this country without paying a penny in tax?
Where is the systematic regular day-to-day increase in income for local authorities that have been starved of funds and then bullied into accepting wasteful and anti-democratic re-organisations before they are allowed a slightly less miserly share of funding? Why is it that 13 years after the horrible financial crash of 2008, it is still possible to make good money out of speculating whilst the savings of ordinary people fetch next to nothing? Why was so much spent on road building and so little on stopping sewage being dumped in our rivers? Why did he choose to cut taxes on short internal flights days before the COP 26 conference?
The unreliable chancellor
There is a myth being actively promoted that the government may have a flamboyant slightly quirky leader but at least it has a reliable thoughtful chancellor. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What we have is an extraordinarily rich and privileged chancellor. One who backed Brexit from the start because it advantaged people with money whilst ignoring the impact on businesses, on farmers and on the cost of living that are becoming all too evident. A chancellor who is prepared to buy cheap popularity from the far right of his party by leaking the idea that he is less concerned about the climate emergency than the prime minister. One who was quite happy to see his old boss cast aside under pressure from Dominic Cummings if it meant he secured the job he wanted.
It will be interesting to see how long the myth of Sunak’s competence can survive. Will the middle class thank him when their mortgage costs start to rise to cope with the inflation his Brexit policy introduced? Will working class voters forgive him as their communities continue to decline and promises turn out to be empty and worthless? And will the young forgive him as Britain continues to help make the climate crisis worse for another 29 years whilst it produces yet another mountain of untaxed plastic?
This has been a budget designed to promote the future career of the chancellor by pandering to his backbenchers. It has not been a budget for the good of the country. Or the good of the planet.