Yesterday’s Budget has highlighted the Government’s economic failures with growth revised down once again and a Chancellor who is breaking his own fiscal rules.
Thanks to George Osborne borrowing in 2015 was £74bn more than he had promised. As a result of this we’re now in debt to the tune of £1600bn, that’s over 80% of our GDP, and the Chancellor has failed his own target to cut the debt to GDP ratio. It just shows that Osborne’s so-called recovery is built on sand.
With this stark economic context, the choices Osborne has made show exactly what this Government are about: cuts in support for disabled people, including a £4.4bn cut over five years to PIP, paying for a cut in the ‘Tycoons’ [Capital Gains] Tax.
Since 2012 over four million disabled people have lost £24bn worth of benefits through Government cuts and 640,000 will be affected by the changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
I welcome the support to small businesses, for example, through cuts in business rates, although I have concerns about what this will mean for local authorities that are already struggling.
Action to improve public health through the sugar levy in soft drinks is also important, but I will need reassurance that these costs won’t be passed on to consumers. The doubling of support for sports in schools is also good news, but I will wait until I see it happen.
Regionally I welcome the go-ahead of £60m investment for the High Speed 3 railway lines between Leeds and Manchester which will bring down journey times from 50 minutes to around 30 minutes. But we also need to ensure that investment is not forgotten at stations like Greenfield where it’s desperately needed. And the £161m to accelerate the transformation of the M62 is positive too, although double this sum was first announced in the Autumn Statement, so is not actually new money and it’s been halved.
I am slightly wary of these announcements as more often than not they are often re-announcements. It’s worth noting that less than 9% of the infrastructure projects announced by this Chancellor have actually been delivered.
Significantly, the Chancellor made no mention of the NHS in his statement today despite the deficits faced across the health economy.
The measures to address homelessness, in particular rough sleeping, are too little too late. £115m is a drop in the ocean to deal with a 30% increase in rough sleeping which is a real crisis on our streets across the UK including here in Oldham where I’m getting more cases of homelessness to deal with.
Finally where is the promised action on tax havens? I’d like to see the Government put as much effort into tackling tax evasion and publishing companies’ ownership and transactions in UK tax havens as they do into demonising the sick, disabled and low income workers.
The independent Institute of Fiscal Studies reported recently that the poorest have suffered the greatest proportional losses meaning that the net effect of changes to both our tax and social security system is that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.
David Cameron once said ‘we’re all in this together’ but disabled people obviously aren’t included in that statement and this budget has unfairness at its core.