Autumn budget gives little to the many and more to the few

Theresa May's promise that the Autumn budget would signal the "end of austerity" was viewed with suspicion from the very start, and for many, Chancellor Philip Hammond's speech yesterday only reinforced their view that the government won't put its money where its mouth is when it comes to public services.

30 Oct 2018| News

Photo by Philip Veater

A 1.2% rise in public spending is all but absorbed by increased spending on the NHS and Hammond admitted that some departments will actually see cuts in funding. Schools have been given a tiny slice of the pie (£400m) for “the little extras they need”, fuelling anger from teachers and parents alike.

The National Education Union (NEU) said the Chancellor had shown his “ignorance” over the impact of the £2 billion shortfall in funding schools have seen this year, which is expected to get even worse.

“The government has promised more money for potholes than schools in this Budget,” NEU joint-General Secretary, Kevin Courtney, said.

“Schools are struggling to provide a full and well-rounded education and many schools have fallen into debt – money for ‘little extras’ won’t cut it. Parents, teachers, headteachers and school staff will be dismayed.”

“Austerity will continue for children,” Courtney concluded. Indeed, it seems it will continue for many. Except for in healthcare, the Chancellor admitted that the public sector will see no “real terms” boost in investment.

Public services union Unison said there was no end in sight for “wrecking ball austerity”, which has “left local services in a perilous state”.

“This was a budget that provided no new money for local government after a decade of viscous cuts,” Unison’s General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said.

Even the raise in NHS funding “will barely cover projected deficits”; claims the government will end PFI will do “nothing to end the scandal”; and a “measly sum” for social care services “won’t come close to ending the care crisis”, Prentis pointed out.

Civil service union PCS also expressed anger at a budget they described as a “PR stunt” and a “sticking plaster over a gaping wound”.

General Secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “Austerity has not ended for those working in the civil service and related areas. The staff who will implement Brexit, collect tax and help the unemployed have had ten years of real terms pay cuts. There was nothing in this budget for them today.

“For those in the wider economy, whose average weekly earnings are lower than ten years ago, the Chancellor has merely offered them crumbs from the top table.”

Indeed, while Hammond ostensibly announced good news for low-income workers – in the form of an increase in the personal tax allowance to £12,500, and news that employment and wages were on the up – he was widely attacked for offering little to those in the most need.

Firstly, as well as increasing the threshold for basic rate taxpayers, the Chancellor also raised the threshold for higher taxpayers to £50,000. This lets wealthier workers off the hook for income tax – and to a significantly higher degree than the poor.

While a person with an annual salary of £12,500 will save £130 a year from the tax cut, people on £50,000 will take home an extra £860 (even after an increase in their National Insurance contributions is taken into account, the policy is worth £520 to these higher-rate payers – four times the amount gained by those on low incomes).

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey also criticised Hammond’s talk of a “jobs miracle”, calling it “an insult”.

“It will certainly be news to those juggling two and three jobs for whom it is miraculous if they manage to make ends meet from week-to-week,” he said.

“The truth is Theresa May leads a government of historic low growth and shrunken wages that has trapped our people in a never-ending decline in living standards.”