Former Tory chancellor, George “Slasher” Osborne, congratulated Philip Hammond on the chancellor’s first spring budget for its “fiscal responsibility”. It really says it all.
Headline writers focus on broken manifesto promises. But for ordinary people the attack on our living standards, the crisis in our public services and the need for resistance to Tory austerity remains.
The 1 percent pay cap for millions of public sector workers, cuts to benefits, and policies that favour the wealthy are still firmly in place.
The background to the budget is an economy still in trouble—and the Tories are determined that working class people should pay the price.
Report after report has sounded the alarm over the social care crisis. This, and the fact that even Tory councils were starting to kick up a fuss about it, forced Hammond to announce extra grant money.
But £2 billion over the next three years is a drop in the ocean. More is desperately needed in just one year than Hammond has pledged. Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell rightly called it a “sticking plaster”.
Similarly, the Tory chancellor’s £100 million to help struggling hospital A&Es only treats a symptom of the Tory-borne disease wrecking our NHS.
It comes as the Tories are pushing through cuts of £22 billion over three years.
The right wing Daily Mail newspaper celebrated as the chancellor “splashes the cash on schools with £1 billion”.
Yet a third of the money was for free schools or for selective grammar schools. Free schools are outside local authority control and drain funding from state schools, while entry to grammar schools is shaped by class.
Half of that money was for new “T level” technical qualifications that will perpetuate the kinds of educational divides the Tories want to see.
The remaining extra for education is meant to help rebuild and repair all other existing schools. Government auditors say the repairs need thirty times what Hammond has promised.
“Parents and teachers will be deeply dismayed at this flagrant and irresponsible waste of money,” said NUT teachers’ union general secretary Kevin Courtney.
He added, “These are simply the wrong priorities.”
Hammond admitted he was “listening to the voice of business”. He boasted that from April corporation tax will be “the lowest rate in the G20”—19 percent.
By 2020 “it will fall again to 17 percent, sending the clearest possible signal that Britain is open for business”.
Yet buried in the budget report was the fact that Britain lost £800 million in tax revenue. This is because wealthy people shifted their dividend payments to avoid paying more to the Treasury.
Since the Tories set up a new tax unit to make Britain’s super rich pay more they have dodged £1 billion. Meanwhile the income tax paid by everyone else rose by £23 billion.
Hammond said “the only responsible course of action” to tackle Britain’s £1.7 trillion debt is “is to continue with our plan”. That means more austerity and attacks on working class people.
Britain’s 2.2 million dollar millionaires have a combined declared wealth equivalent to the national debt, according to a recent report by Credit Suisse Research Institute
Then there’s the billions they’ve squirreled away in secret tax havens.
The solution to the multiple crises caused by the Tories in our health and social care services, housing or education is to make the rich pay more. Not hammer the poor.