No “end to austerity” was in sight yesterday (October 29), as Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget handed rich families giveaways worth 14 times more than those afforded to the poor.
Analysis from the Resolution Foundation shows that the wealthiest 10 per cent will receive £410 from income tax and benefits changes, compared to just £30 for the poorest 10 per cent.
Unite said the Budget made a mockery of Tory pledges that austerity was “coming to an end”, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was a “broken promise Budget” made up of “half-measures and quick fixes”.
Responding to the Budget, Unite leader Len McCluskey said, “Austerity is not over. Despite the Chancellor’s desperate efforts at make believe, back in the real world there is still the horror to come of billions of pounds slashed from public spending.
“The truth is Theresa May leads a government of historic low growth and shrunken wages that has trapped our people in a never-ending decline in living standards.”
Amid boasts of a Conservative-led “jobs miracle” and a cringe inducing jokes such as “fiscal Phil says fiscal rules OK”, Hammond was forced into a humiliating U-turn over Universal Credit (UC) – ploughing another £1.7bn a year into the Tory’s disastrous benefits reform.
The Chancellor was induced to act on UC after campaigners and MPs from the across the political divide warned that the underfunded all-in-one benefit was leaving families in debt and reliant on food banks.
However shadow chancellor John McDonnell has called on MPs to vote against the Budget later this week if UC is not halted completely to allow its numerous and severe flaws to be fixed.
Universal credit: ‘absolute terror’
McCluskey said Hammond’s talk of a “jobs miracle” was an insult and backed McDonnell’s call for MPs to reject the Budget over UC, which will hit millions of working families, especially those surviving on insecure low-paid work.
“On Universal Credit, right across the country people are living in absolute terror of what is coming their way. Weeks without money, the threat of eviction, a reliance on food banks. This is simply not good enough for the sixth largest economy on the planet,” McCluskey said.
“Mr Hammond could have used today to allay their very real fears and save families and their children from certain poverty. He did not, and what he proposed did not go far enough. On that basis we back the call for MPs to vote down this Budget.”
In further attempts to show that the Tories have heeded outrage over their decimation of public services, the Budget also provided £20.5bn extra for the NHS over the next five years, including at least £2bn a year for much need mental health services.
Local authorities are also set to receive a further £700m for collapsing adult social care services, while a £500m infrastructure fund will promote the construction of 650,000 new homes.
But despite some extra cash being pumped into the system, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation say Tory claims of ending austerity will not occur if, at the very least, savage spending cuts for the majority of government departments are not halted.
Meanwhile, the Resolution Foundation is also adamant that austerity will continue unless the attacks on working age benefits set for next year are reversed.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey was pessimistic about the Tories tackling the root cause of austerity: their choice “to make the people pay for the greed of the banking elite”.
He said, “It is high time they took their tired, failing ideas and moved out of the way. We need a government that will actually invest in decent homes, jobs, wages and public services, one that can create a hopeful vision for the UK after Brexit and where the chronic under-funding of our schools, hospitals and police will cease.
“We needed a budget for the many. Instead we got one for the few. When it comes down to it, it is a typical Tory budget. All tricks and ruses, and absolutely no treats for the most vulnerable in our society.”