“Let’s be clear, the Autumn Statement was an austerity budget that will further entrench inequality, force tax rises on struggling households and crush public services.”Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
By Ben Folley, Labour Assembly Against Austerity
When Jeremy Hunt opened his first ‘autumn statement’ this week, he talked about tackling the cost-of-living crisis and rebuilding public services.
However as he outlined new tax and spending measures, whereby just under half of the £55 billion ‘consolidation’ came from tax, and just over half from spending, it was clear his priority was, in fact, ‘stability’ for those making big profits and not the majority of people, with the Statement’s contents overall set to hit incomes further and mean people’s living standards would fall.
He confirmed that the Bank of England’s remit was to remain the same, so that decisions such as those on interest rates would continue to be taken regardless of the impact on disposable incomes.
The Office for Budget Responsibility in its analysis, said the UK was in recession and the measures would reduce real disposable household income by 7.1%, reducing it to 2013 levels.
Overall, he confirmed austerity will be a harsh reality for years to come, with real terms departmental public spending cuts to come, and real terms public sector pay continuing to fall, with no new announcements on wages in civil service, education, health, or other emergency services.
On incomes, pensions and social security were to rise by the September 2021 rate of 10.1%, but there were no measures to mitigate the suspension of the triple lock last year, the loss of the universal credit uplift or the benefit cap. On income tax, thresholds at which they kick in will remain in place, meaning as incomes rise, more and more at the lower end pay tax.
On energy bills, the average household cap would be allowed to rise to £3000 with no more universal support from April, meaning individuals at all levels would be paying more despite its rise since 2021.
And announcements amounting to taxation on wealth used sleight of hand to mask their impact. Windfall taxation on fossil fuel extraction and energy supply would be expanded but there was no end to the 90% tax relief on fossil fuel investment. And whilst capital gains and dividend tax thresholds were reduced, there was no equalisation of tax levels with income tax, leaving the wealthy better off than wage earners.
In response, Labour left MPs focused on local authority funding and the growing housing crisis.
John McDonnell highlighted the number of people facing mortgage repossessions as a result of the interest rate rise and said more were also facing private landlord repossessions where they were renting.
To deal with the private rent crisis, John McDonnell said Mayors were demanding rent control powers whilst he also argued for mortgage interest assistance.
Jeremy Corbyn too raised private rental costs saying councils needed power to control rents particularly in areas like central London. He also said that in light of the death of two year old Awaab Ishak, said councils needed more funding to investigate homes.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, Ian Mearns and Mick Whitley highlighted their councils loss of central government funding over twelve years of Tory austerity and made clear their authorities were facing tens of millions of funding lost each year. They highlighted that with poorer residents, the Conservatives could not just expect Labour Councils to levy more council tax to fund services, off people who were already struggling.
Zarah Sultana condemned the lack of action on universal free school meal provisions at primary level which was being increasingly demanded by campaigners as one action to deal with child poverty and which she said could be funded by closing non-dom tax loopholes.
Elsewhere, outside the chamber, Beth Winter condemned the real terms public spending cuts and real terms pay cuts for public sector workers.
Socialist Campaign Group Secretary Richard Burgon condemned the lack of action on wealth taxation. Ahead of the Budget, he had repeatedly argued in Parliament and on the media that cuts could be avoided by taxing wealth.
- Tonight at 6.30PM join John McDonnell, Jon Trickett, Holly Turner (NHS Workers Say No) and Andrew Fisher for immediate analysis and reaction to the Autumn Statement. Taking place online – November 17th at 6.30PM. Register here.
- The next Socialist Policy Seminar from the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs takes place on Monday, November 21st at 7PM. “Tax the Rich – the fight for wealth taxes and tax justice” – where speakers will also respond to the Autumn Statement. Register and find out more here.
- On December 10th, join the Arise Festival and Labour Assembly Against Austerity Conference: “Solidarity – Struggle – Socialism” with a range of speakers from across the Labour and Trade Union movement, and front-line campaigners and activists. Taking place at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL. Register and voice your opposition to the Tories return to austerity.