Tory chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget will look after the rich and turn the screw on workers and the poor.
But it was guaranteed that Hammond wouldn’t address the continued assault on working class people’s living standards and the services they need.
He will make matters worse.
Major benefit cuts are tearing lives apart but, for the rich and big business, major reductions will be implemented in inheritance tax and corporation tax.
And while there is a raging crisis over ordinary schools’ funding, there was a £320 million handout for divisive new “free” schools and grammar schools.
Last week the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) reported that Britain is suffering the weakest growth in living standards in at least 60 years.
It said low income families fare the worst.
Low wages, together with tax and benefit changes, will lead to even deeper inequality by 2021-22. Incomes for the average family will not grow at all over the next two years.
The IFS calculated that average household incomes will be 18 percent lower in 2021-22 than could have been reasonably expected in 2007-8, before the financial crisis.
It means a childless couple would be about £5,900 a year worse off than they might otherwise have been. The figure rises to £8,300 for a couple with two young children.
People on benefits will be savaged if, as expected, inflation rises.
Most working age benefit rates were frozen for four years from April 2016. They will be eroded in real terms for three more years.
I see people come in here every day who have jobs but can’t make ends meet. The idea that these sort of people are going to lose £12 a week on top of where they are now is just disgusting.Food bank worker Marianne Williamson
The Resolution Foundation says that a couple with one person working, and two children, were going to be £495 worse off each year as a result of the benefit freeze. But they will now lose £680 as a result of higher inflation.
Food bank worker Marianne Williamson from east London told Socialist Worker, “I see people come in here every day who have jobs but can’t make ends meet.
“The idea that these sort of people are going to lose £12 a week on top of where they are now is just disgusting.
“There’s such a big divide in Britain today between rich and poor.”
Hammond will tinker and promise more money for services, but it won’t begin to fill the need.
The NHS needs an extra £12 billion immediately just to stave off the worst of the crisis. And councils face an overall £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020—on top of all the previous cuts.
Fresh cuts pile on pain
A new raft of attacks on welfare are due to come into effect soon. They will mean suffering for tens of thousands of people. They include:
- A £30 a week cut for new Employment and Support Allowance claimants in the work-related activity group will slash around a third of the current weekly benefit.
- Widowed Parents’ Allowance will be replaced by a new Bereavement Support Payment for new claims. Charity Childhood Bereavement Network said the new guidelines could leave parents as much as £12,000 worse off. The government will also stop new claims from parents who lived with but weren’t married to their partner. Over 2,000 families with children could lose out each year.
- In households with two or more children, any further children born after April 2017 will not be eligible for child tax credits or universal credit.
- Removing entitlement to Housing Benefit from most 18-21 year olds.
- Amendments to Personal Independence Payment eligibility was also due to take effect on 16 March. The changes reverse two recent tribunal judgments, and will hit over 150,000 people.
Let’s raid the fat cats’ kitty
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said in advance of the budget that the government should use the billions of pounds it is saving for Brexit to save the NHS and social care.
He said, “We believe that the government now have put aside, as is reported, £60 billion—increased tax receipts in January have contributed to this as well—for a crisis in case of Brexit.
“The crisis is here now. We should prepare for Brexit but some of that money now needs to deal with the crisis in the NHS and social care.”
McDonnell also put forward a call for a £10 an hour minimum wage.
The whole Labour Party should fight for taxing the rich and the corporations at a much higher rate.
It should also fight to stop the tax evaders, and take rail and all the other privatised industries back from the fat cats who make massive profits from them.