Labour politicians have responded to today’s Tory budget with a barrage of criticism calling it a missed opportunity to make a difference while a smokescreen of ‘Dishy’ Rishi (a future Tory leader?) dominated the media. Labour leader Keir Starmer highlighted areas on which the Chancellor was silent, such as the NHS and social care, pointed to “glaring holes” in our public health response: the low level of statutory sick pay, which means some people can’t afford to self-isolate with coronavirus, and the inaccessibility of the isolation payment whilst calling out the fact that more than a decade of Conservative austerity left the UK economy in such a weak position going into the pandemic. The Tories claim to be the party to help it recover but after a decade of neglect that led to high levels of insecure work, stagnant wages and more than four million children living in poverty, Sunak clearly didn’t actually have a plan and, as people should realise by now, frontline workers are at the back of any Tory queue.
Keir Starmer said “After 11 months in this job it’s nice finally to be standing opposite the person actually making decisions in this Government. The trouble is, the trouble is, it’s those decisions that have left us with the mess we find today. The worst economic crisis of any major economy in the last 12 months, unemployment at five per cent and as the Chancellor said, forecast to rise to 6.5 per cent, debt at over £2 trillion. I’m sure this Budget will look better on Instagram. In fact, this week’s PR video cost the taxpayer so much, I was half expecting to see a line in the OBR forecast for it. But even the Chancellor’s film crew will struggle to put a positive spin on this. After the decisions of the last year and the decade of neglect, we needed a Budget to fix the foundations of our economy, to reward our key workers, to protect the NHS and to build a more secure and prosperous economy for the future. Instead, what we got was a Budget that papered over the cracks, rather than rebuilding the foundations. A Budget that shows the Government doesn’t understand what went wrong in the last decade or what’s needed in the next”
Passing the Parcel
In Somerset, Labour Leaders have also attacked the Government. Bridgwater Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour Westover) said “Don’t be fooled by the gloss put on this by Sunak, underneath this gleaming golden stairway stuff there’s the policies of Maggie Thatcher. The packaging is pure ‘pass the parcel’ and when you finally unwrap it and get to what’s really there it’ll be a boxing glove on a spring to smack you in the face. They may have stolen some left rhetoric -green industrial revolution, national infrastructure bank, corporation tax rises, but it’s a sham. These are things that Labour promised at the elections but with realistic funding behind them. A national infrastructure bank with 12 billion won’t deliver anything near the 250 billion needed. Indicators already show our economy will be 4% smaller because of permanent damage effect of the pandemic. We’ve been hit the worse out of every top world economy, and we also have the worse death rate. This is nothing that can be waved away by shiny smooth Instagram posts and smiley press conferences. Inside all this are hidden cuts to health and a Tax freeze totally unable to deal with a surge in inflation. The Furlough system at 80% of pay is lower than most of Europe but in July Sunak expects companies to contribute 10% then 20% in August . That’s when shareholders will decide if jobs are worth it and that’s when we will start to see a spike in unemployment. If Sunak is serious he should have done a job guarantee scheme to create new skilled jobs and a massive program of retraining to prepare people for the changing job market. And nothing here addresses the biggest scandal of the rent racket. Landlords, a totally unproductive blight on people’s lives and a central product of capitalism. These are some of the biggest profiteers from the pandemic and the people trapped in rent debt are some of the impending recessions major victims, whose rent buys them nothing . There’s no increase in higher rates of income tax, no tax of dividends and no windfall tax on pandemic profiteers, Banks, corporate landlords, streaming services, delivery companies. Where in fact is the commitment to council house building, where’s the real green new deal, where’s pay increases for frontline workers, why no lift in statutory sick pay and what about the working poor?! The real problem with this budget isn’t what was in it it’s what wasn’t. And that’s exactly what and crucially, who, the Tories don’t ever think about.”
Escalation in Gross Inequality
Bridgwater Town Council Economy spokesman Cllr Mick Lerry (Labour, Victoria) added “Well the Chancellor did not recognise the escalation in the gross inequality in Britain. Although the £20 uplift in universal credit will be extended it will fall away very soon and people will be worse off. The support for house buying will only fuel an increase in house prices and there is no support for the building of Council houses, needed for many people who will only be able to rent a property. . The extension of the Furlough scheme will rely on increased funding from the employer, which could lead to many workers facing redundancy, before they can return to employment. There was nothing in the budget for frontline workers who had worked through the pandemic, many on extremely low wages, which shows that this Government does not really care about levelling up. The Free Port status went to Plymouth and not to Bristol and the Gravity site, so the much lorded plan for the local economy will not happen, even though there was a great deal of local Conservative support for the scheme. Although there was an announcement about the Town Fund, the Council will have wait to see if the funding covers the 11 projects in the Town Investment Plan. The Chancellor did not recognise that the economy has not just been damaged by the pandemic, but also from a decade of austerity and much has to be done to repair the damage. Even during the pandemic there have been individuals who have increased their wealth, while workers have been on a low standard of living, there needs to be real Government investment to get the Green economy up and running for a full recovery. The budget today was not a long term plan for future growth and income equality”.
Commenting on today’s budget, Terry Ledlie, Chair of Yeovil Constituency Labour Party said: “This is a clapped-out Budget, mainly marked by missed opportunities. There is no reward for key workers, with the Government failing to invest in NHS, care home staff and others delivering public service, who have been in the front-line of the war against COVID. The Chancellor has also failed to support all the self-employed and freelancers, or to fix the problems with Universal Credit, where the poorest families will face a £20 cut in their income in six months’ time. We have already seen high profile job losses in Yeovil and Chard, yet the chancellor admits that
unemployment will continue to rise by a further half million by the end of the year. Somerset has also been ignored when it comes to special measures to stimulate the economy. The new ideas, like he creation of new towns and freeports, have been largely concentrated in the so- called “red wall” marginals. This is not fair on Somerset, as our area has a skills-base that makes it ripe for investment in high tech jobs. The Chancellor should have paid some attention to rebuilding our local economy and supporting Somerset people. Instead of being helped, we are asked to pay the Government back through stealth taxes and fiscal drag.”