Driverless cars are on Philip Hammond’s mind.
In tomorrow’s budget the Chancellor will announce changes designed to make testing the new technology easier on British roads.
Perhaps he likes driverless cars because they are like the government: neither has anyone at the wheel.
This is exactly what Labour meant after Hammond said the budget will kickstart the building of 300,000 new homes a year; citing another housing market review, insignificant funding changes and more overblown targets.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey said, “After seven years in government, it’s clear the Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis and still can’t see that their policy failures are making the crisis worse.
“Rather than more small-scale tinkering, the Chancellor should back Labour’s long-term plan to invest to build the homes we need, help first-time buyers and give private renters the protections they need.”
Hammond reckons there’s “no magic bullet” to solve the UK chronic lack of housing, yet the solution is obvious – just build more houses.
Councils want to do just that, but the Tories have refused to lift borrowing caps on local authorities that would go along way to solving the problem.
That’s why Sadiq Khan, along with 21 London borough councils, have written to the Chancellor urging him to lift the cap and allow them to get building homes – something Labour have already pledged to do nationwide.
Khan said, “We want to build more affordable homes, including new council housing – and Londoners are desperate for us to do so. But we urgently need Government to play its part by giving the capital the resources, powers, and freedoms we need to underpin a step change in what we can do.
“Archaic rules need to be reformed, a legacy of underinvestment needs to be reversed, and new powers need to be devolved.”
Sensible change unlikely
Sensible change is not likely to come from Hammond, however, who on Sunday said the embattled NHS will not fail if it does not receive extra funding – despite the boss of NHS England saying just that, a point reiterated by Tory MP and health select committee head, Sarah Wollastan.
During the same BBC interview, Hammond also claimed that “there are no unemployed people” in the UK, later clarifying the government was aware of the 1.4m people without work.
Shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett said Hammond was living on another planet.
Trickett said, “If the person in charge of the country’s finances doesn’t know, or chooses to ignore, the fact that nearly 1.5 million people are unemployed, and almost a million people are on zero-hours contracts, then he is clearly losing a grip on reality.
“The Tories have become even more out of touch and are now so inwards looking that they have no clue of the experiences of ordinary people suffering from seven years of Tory austerity.”
Ultimately the problem with the government is that it is reactive, meaning that even if Hammond’s budget delivers small positive changes on issues receiving media attention, there is no joined up thinking or substantive action.
It is vital that Britain has a strong and capable government as it navigates Brexit, stalling economic productivity and the arrival of a new industrial era.
Tomorrow’s budget is Philip Hammond’s chance to show that he is ready to meet the challenge, said Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner.
He said, “Philip Hammond faces a choice tomorrow – he can follow in the government’s footsteps of putting the Tory party first before all else or act in the interests of the country.
“The government can no longer get away with inadequate attempts to placate growing public anger over single issues, such as the housing crisis, while sticking to an austerity agenda that only benefits the wealthiest everywhere else. Britain is in serious need of a change of direction and I urge Hammond to deliver it.”
Turner called on Hammond to reverse the destruction of the UK’s public services and council housing stock and to invest in long-term growth.
He added, “Money must be allocated for the creation of new jobs and a Brexit Support Fund needs to be established that invests in the technologies and infrastructure vital to building a sustainable and productive economy that works for the many.
“If the actions of Philip Hammond, and the rest of the government, continue to be focused on desperately clinging to power, leaving them unable to provide the leadership and vision needed to successfully steer Britain towards a better future, they must hand over the reigns to those who can.”