“Our billionaire-bankrolled Government and millionaire Chancellor have cut the bank surcharge tax from 8% to 3%, amounting to a £4 billion giveaway to banks… exactly the same amount they’ve taken away from Universal Credit recipients.”
By Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP.
The Chancellor’s sunny rhetoric on Wednesday concealed the grim reality of a looming winter of discontent: rising taxes, higher costs, inflation, Universal Credit cuts and potential supply shortages. This Budget fails to grapple with the cost-of-living crisis, places a regressive tax burden on the people who are struggling most and offers no realistic prospects for green growth. There are significant departures from the more laissez-faire approach of recent Tory administrations but the underlying purpose is the same: government by the rich, for the rich.
Levelling up? They’re not even levelling back
This Budget was a tacit admission that we’ve endured a lost decade of Tory rule. The Chancellor crowed about taking the education budget back up to the 2010 levels of the last Labour government. That’s effectively cheering the fact you’ve failed to spend a penny more on education in fifteen years. This announcement is compounded by the fact that money is disproportionately being funnelled to schools in the least deprived areas.
In many cases, the government’s not even levelling back. The 300 youth centres announced by the Chancellor yesterday won’t plug the gap in youth services left by the 750 closed since 2010. 75 children’s hubs won’t make up for the 1,000 Sure Start centres closed since 2010.
The government views equalities as an opt-in
We can’t talk about sexism, racism, ableism and poverty without talking about the economy. Ahead of the Budget, I joined Zarah Sultana and Apsana Begum in calling on the Chancellor to address structural inequalities and publish a comprehensive equalities impact assessment of the Budget and spending review. Equalities are part of our law. Sadly, we have a government that think they are above the law.
We know public spending cuts have disproportionately impacted women, disabled people, and Black, Asian, and ethnic minority (BAME) people over the last decade. And progressive taxation that ensures the rich pay their fair share is crucial for the delivery of equalities and women’s rights.
Despite this, the government failed to publish an assessment alongside yet again. It’s such a low bar to state that MPs should be able to properly scrutinise government policy decisions with an eye on their potential impacts. If they insist on taxing and spending in a way that entrenches existing inequalities, the least they can do is be honest with us about that.
They’re taking from the many to give to the few
It should go without saying that we shouldn’t be hoodwinked into believing that higher spending is somehow inherently left-wing or even progressive. This is a Budget which in spite of increasing government outlays are designed to preserve the existing system of power and privilege.
Yesterday brought confirmation that our billionaire-bankrolled Government and millionaire Chancellor have cut the bank surcharge tax from 8% to 3%, amounting to a £4 billion giveaway to banks – which is exactly the same amount they’ve taken away from Universal Credit recipients.
Nothing sums up the Budget better than taking £4 billion away from some of the most deprived households in the UK to give bankers a tax break. It’s government by the rich, for the rich. From the start of the pandemic to the middle of 2021, the wealth gap between the richest 10% and poorest 10% grew by £40,000 in the UK. It will go higher.
After a year when UK billionaires raked in £106.5bn and ordinary households shouldered a disproportionate share, it’s time to look at taxing wealth, not the people who work to create it.
Green is just a word for the Tories
While our PM flies around in donor-lent private jets and helicopters to flaunt his role as head of COP 26, the pandemic is showing the world that we are leading nothing – least of all COP26.
Instead of stepping up support for the Global South’s green transition, they’ve cut the aid budget and won’t be restoring it until 2023/24 and there wasn’t so much as a mention of the word “climate change” in the Chancellor’s speech. We know that it’s often a case of do as I say, not as I do with this government. Even so, the Chancellor’s announcement that they are halving air passenger duty – less than a week before COP26 – probably came as a surprise to even the sceptical among us.
After a decade of subsidising useless private rail companies with above-inflation fares, travelling by train to COP26 will set you back £125 while a one-way flight to Glasgow is a mere £25. We should be encouraging people to move away from heavily polluting forms of transport by investing in greening public transport, not incentivising them to fly very short distances and chucking money at roads.
The Tories believe minimum wage is enough to live well on
From 1992 to 2008, real wages grew at a rate of 38%. Since 2008, they have grown by just 2.4%. After the last recession, banks got bailouts while UK workers saw the biggest wage squeeze since the Napoleonic era. Yesterday’s announcements continue this trend.
News of an end to the public sector pay freeze is not good enough with the government refusing to rule out below-inflation pay rises. It won’t make a dent in the real terms pay loss experienced by nurses, paramedics, care workers, refuse collectors, firefighters and teachers over the last decade. Someone also needs to remind the government (and some journalists) that calling minimum wage a “national living wage” doesn’t make it so. A £9.50 wage is not enough to live on, just about beating out inflation and other tax rises for the lowest earners in our society.
All the evidence points to flatlining wages for the foreseeable future, with the IFS predicting that average income is likely to be £9,000 per person below pre-2008 trend. Against a government that is doing more to tax work than to tax wealth, we must demand a better deal for workers starting with a £15 minimum wage.
Rhetoric vs reality
If the government are now able to crow about spending growth, that’s only because they slashed funding for key public services over the last decade. If they’re able to boast we have the fastest growing economy in the G7, that’s only because their handling of the pandemic delivered the biggest economic blow of any major economy.
The real story behind this Budget is that the Tories are finding new ways to pay for this damage on the backs of working people. The gulf between rhetoric and reality is an opening for both the Labour Party and the wider left. With the Tories constitutionally incapable of delivering the change we need, we must now highlight the illusory promises being made and push for a real levelling up agenda.
- Bell Ribeiro-Addy is the MP for Streatham – you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.
- You can read more analysis of the budget on Outlook – Trade Union responses, the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs respond, what a progressive budget would look like for women, Rebecca Long-Bailey pre-budget piece, why the national minimum wage offer doesn’t cut it, and the huge gap in funding for our NHS.