The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn summed up Philip Hammond, the Chancellor’s first and last spring budget – it was a budget that was complacent and out of touch he said.
He could also have added that announcements on dealing with the crises that the country faces on social care and the NHS were the bare minimum that he could have made.
Despite the uncertainty, particularly in the automotive industry that has come to a head in the last few weeks, there was also a minimalist approach to Brexit – mentioned in the first few minutes but then that was it.
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary responding to the budget said, “This budget was extraordinary. It was absent of any sense that the chancellor or the government grasped the enormity of the shock that Brexit will bring to core manufacturing industries”.
It was a budget that had all the hallmarks of going through the motions until his budget in the autumn. It was an insult to all those who work in the NHS and social care and to all those who use these vital public services that it wasn’t until virtually the end of the speech that Hammond said anything at all. And what he said was insulting enough.
Local authorities have been starved of cash and all Philip Hammond had to offer was a measly £2bn over three years for social care funding.
He boasted that employment was at a record high. Unemployment is at an 11 year low with over 2.7m more people enjoying the security and dignity of work than in 2010.
But as we all know that comes at a price.
A price in precarious working with more people than ever on zero hours and insecure work. And Hammond had nothing to say however on dealing with bogus self-employment and abuses perpetrated by employers.
On the NHS which is going through the most austere decade in its history the pledges made were totally inadequate and included funding for their ‘slash, trash and privatise’ plans. A drop in the ocean compared with what is needed. For the quarter of a million people who marched last Saturday in London in defence of the NHS, it was a slap in the face.
Yesterday Angela Rayner MP, shadow secretary for education was castigated for saying that she was disgusted that the chancellor was expected to indulge the Prime Minister and her vanity project on grammar schools. The announcement duly came with funding for an extra 110 free schools on top of the 500 already announced.
Angela Rayner was right. Kevin Courtney general secretary of the NUT responding to the budget said, “School budgets have been cut to the bone, class sizes have increased, subjects have been dropped from the curriculum, materials and resources are scarce yet nothing has been done to address this very serious problem.
“Instead of tackling this crisis of their own making, we now learn that extra funding will pour into the opening of new free schools and grammar schools for which there is absolutely no need. Parents and teachers will be deeply dismayed at this flagrant and irresponsible waste of money.”
Ahead of the Budget, Len McCluskey had said on education that “the news that the government is to prioritise funding for selective education, not universal provision, will demoralise teachers, pupils and parents alike, proving that May’s government is no friend to our communities”.
Lowest corporation tax
The Chancellor also confirmed in the budget that corporation tax will fall to 17 per cent by 2020 the lowest in the G20.
As we head towards Brexit and a continuation of the failed austerity policy of this government and the last Conservative-led Coalition the Labour leader warned that the economy isn’t working for the many.
Millions of workers know their next pay packet won’t be enough to make ends meet. It is a Budget built on failure and unfairness.
This is a budget that left much unsaid but we can be clear – expect more cuts to our public services already in crisis caused by years of Tory austerity. Uncertainty and continuing under investment in our crumbling infrastructure does not provide firm foundations needed for any strong economy.