It’s that time again we’ve all been waiting for…no, not Eurovision, but the announcement of the Budget to manage the pennies in our pockets. On 11th March, a newly appointed and still teeming Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivered his Budget speech concerning the finances for the UK for the following year, with some big numbers being churned out.
Against a backdrop of howling Tories the Chancellor stated that in order to fund these significant cash boosts into various sectors in the UK we will need to borrow more and, in doing this, take advantage of the ridiculously low interest rates that exist presently. An eye-watering £100 billion is planned to be borrowed, yet despite this figure, Sunak claimed that the UK would still have a lower deficit as a share of GDP by 2024-5. Borrowing, they’re getting it done alright.
So, what was actually included in the Budget? It’s good news for pissheads with the freezing of duties for wines and ciders to support more pubs. The CEOs of Amazon and Netflix can go celebrate their new £1 billion tax break! Our esteemed NHS is pledged another £6 billion to help the new 31,000, no um…50,000 Nurses that will be entering the workforce.
Things though, on a serious note, are not so good for other parts of the UK, despite endless promises and lobbying. It seems planting a few more trees to create a forest bigger than Birmingham will now solve the climate crisis. This, alongside the exclusion of agriculture, rail and fishing from the abolition of tax relief, despite them being major polluters, is hardly a ‘green revolution’. It appears that concerning the environment, this government is merely completing a box-ticking exercise, with very little substance. Saving the planet, they’re getting it done.
In a similar fashion, ‘levelling up’ appears to now mean still leaving schools, hospitals and social care in admittedly a better but not much improved state, and one which certainly will not reverse the crushing last 10 years of austerity. Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell raised this point shortly after the Budget was released. In fact thousands of schools will remain worse off with the new money pledged not returning to pre-austerity levels and not enough to match rising inflation and demand. Making citizens poorer, they’re getting it done.
This has been re-iterated by institutions like the IFS and the OBR, the former stating that spending per capita would in fact be 14% lower than pre-cut levels, and the latter claiming this budget will increase the national debt by £125 billion. But don’t forget folks, Labour would trash the economy!
Amongst all the usual spends and duties, this particular budget obviously comes hand in hand with the Coronavirus, officially given Pandemic status by the WHO a few days ago and is spreading rapidly. While the IFS and others have praised the Chancellor’s acknowledgment of the significance of the virus, shown by his shining £5 billion emergency fund for the NHS, they have warned of the potential for economic hardship if growth begins to slow down.
Is this budget therefore, a tad irresponsible given the circumstances? One thing is certain, that Rishi Sunak has secured his top spot in the government, as well as his own brand new sound bite for Twitter.
Image: Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Govt via Flickr