“What this Budget showed is how we urgently need a change of government here in the UK and change of economic approach.”
By Beth Winter MP
The Budget delivered last week was an excellent advert for why we need a change of government and change of economic approach.
We needed a transformative Budget designed to lift incomes and living standards, deliver fair funding to level up our poorer regions and nations and build an economy fit for future generations
Instead, what we got was a speech by a multi-millionaire Chancellor, on behalf of a multi-millionaire Prime Minister, showing how out of touch they are with real lives of people living through a cost-of-living crisis.
Because this budget was an exercise in enriching the wealthy from the wallets of the poorest in our society.
The Office for Budget Responsibility confirms the hit to living standards over the past two years is the largest since comparable records began in the mid-1950s.
Real wages fell last year and will fall further this year. Wages are lower now in real terms than they were 13 years ago.
This is why workers are being forced to take industrial action. This is why it was so crucial to hear something concrete on pay in this budget.
But what was announced on pay? Nothing at all. And analysis by NEF suggested the inaction on public sector pay will hit places like Wales more than London.
For those reliant on social security, increasing the use of sanctions is a real concern.
This is a blatant attack and demonisation of some of the most vulnerable people and will force them into deeper poverty, as my cost-of-living survey in Cynon Valley last year evidenced.
Meanwhile, the out-of-touch Chancellor’s millionaire friends will benefit from his pension allowance change.
Labour analysis reveals that this will benefit only the 1% with the biggest pension pots. A high earner with a £2 million pension pot will get a tax cut of £275k when they take their tax-free lump sum.
This isn’t levelling up, this is trickle-up economics.
We are seeing a ramped-up austerity agenda. Budget analysis by NEF shows a further £21.6bn in unannounced cuts to public services by 2027/28.
Local authorities think this a failed budget. The Welsh LGA condemned the ongoing use of competitive tendering for Levelling Up funding and highlighted the lack of a long-term funding plan for councils.
The Welsh Government’s Budget is worth up to £3 billion less over the 3-year spending review period than when it was originally announced, with the 2023-24 Draft Budget worth up to £1 billion less. Wales also faces a £1.1 billion shortfall in funding as a result of the UK government’s post-EU funding arrangements.
So much for not a penny less, not a power lost.
Problems with the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund and the end of EU funding means around 1000 academic jobs are at risk in Welsh Higher Education.
UK Government has failed to fund the £600m legacy costs of making coal tips in Wales safe.
Whilst at the same time it continues to benefit unduly from its share of the National Mineworkers Pension Scheme – money it should be paying to former mineworkers and their families.
And UK Government also continues the lie of designating not only HS2 but also now Northern Powerhouse Rail as ‘England and Wales’ projects which should result in £5bn and a further £1bn in Barnett money.
That designation means that – once again – the Conservatives are depriving Wales of huge sums of money, money we need to ‘level up’ our public transport services.
Welsh Government is charting a different path. The Programme for Government in Wales is a commitment to progressive agenda – from free school meals to UBI pilot, to a publicly owned energy company to tackling the climate crisis – to secure prosperous and fulfilling lives for current and future generations.
What this Budget showed is how we urgently need a change of government here in the UK and change of economic approach. We need a UK government that will deliver a new funding settlement for public services and fully-funded pay rises that keep pace with the cost-of-living.
And we need to ensure the wealthiest in society finally pay their fair share in tax. Not only abolishing non-dom status but also equalising capital gains tax rates with income tax.
We need also to tax windfall gains experienced by oil and gas giants at a higher rate, removing loopholes that allow businesses to avoid paying their fair share.
And Wales needs a UK Government that will deliver a better, fairer, needs based funding formula from Westminster.
- This article was originally published by Nation Cymru on March 21st, 2023.
- Beth Winter is the MP for Cynon Valley and a regular contributor to Labour Outlook, you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.