Despite the carefully choreographed social media performance (and a new party political broadcast from the BBC), many will feel that Rishi Sunak has left them with little to look forward to after the Budget. There was no announcement on the long-awaited, and much promised, plan for social care and no mention of the NHS in the middle of a health crisis. Public services were conspicuously absent from the statement. Action on the climate emergency received little attention; the £12bn for a new infrastructure bank pales into insignificance when you consider the scale of the challenge, and when you compare it to Labour’s £400bn plan at the last election.
People can instead look forward to a stealth income tax rise as thresholds are frozen, an increase in their council tax bill and a public sector pay freeze. The uplift to Universal Credit has been extended but only to September – creating another cliff edge in just a few months. There was no mention of people on legacy benefits, who were excluded from the initial increase and have seen no uprate to their benefits throughout the pandemic. The Chancellor announced an expansion of the self-employed income support scheme, affecting 600,000 people but still leaving millons without support. And the fifth SEISS payment only covers the period up to the end of July – again offering no parity with the furlough scheme.
The Budget showed that the Tories can only take us back to a normal that was not working for so many. The pre-pandemic normal that saw a deepening housing crisis with increasing numbers of people left homeless, stagnating living standards, more and more people resorting to food banks and rising child poverty. Sunak gave no answer to an economic model that has been proven to be broken. The day-to-day concerns of millions were ignored, and it failed to grasp the challenges of the future.
Labour has accused the Tories of burying cuts deep in the Budget documents – giving lie to the repeated claim from Sunak that he wanted to be “honest” with the public. The party highlighted that core NHS England spending, including Covid spending, will fall from £147.7bn this year to £139.1bn next year. This, and the Tories playing pork-barrel politics with their ‘levelling-up fund’, are the main attack lines for the party in the wake of the Budget. Labour has highlighted that seats held by Conservatives have been prioritised for the £4bn in infrastructure funding, including that of the Chancellor and four other Cabinet members. The rankings put forward under the scheme seem to fly in the face of the deprivation index, with Sunak’s Richmondshire constituency placed in category one.
In non-Budget news, shadow minister for the Middle East and Africa Wayne David has written for LabourList on how Palestinians and Israelis face a common enemy in Covid. Meanwhile, We the People is launching its second paper on devolution today and Welsh parliament member Mick Antoniw has written a piece for our readers on the need for Wales to have its own constitutional convention. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.