Diane Abbott MP: ‘Sunak is another Tory chancellor playing the role of Robin Hood in reverse’

'The Resolution Foundation put it succinctly, ‘On taxes, by 2027 average households will be paying £3,000 more in taxes than when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.'

Sunak budget climate change

Diane Abbott is the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington

The backslapping of Rishi Sunak after his Budget speech by his fellow Tory frontbenchers should be ignored. It is a contractual obligation of the job. Likewise, the favourable headlines of the Tory press. The Express outdid itself, praising the Chancellor’s commitment to cutting taxes, when he has just raised them to their highest level for 70 years.

The reality is that this Budget was yet another attack on workers, especially the low paid, and tens of millions will be worse off as a result.

Thankfully, outside the media we have analytical bodies such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation. They are agreed and very clear; this is a Budget which will make ordinary people worse off.

The Resolution Foundation put it succinctly, ‘On taxes, by 2027 average households will be paying £3,000 more in taxes than when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister. In addition, real wages will fall next year and the country is in the weakest decade for pay growth for the 1930s’.

The Budget was an opportunity to help people struggling with higher bills and tackle the crisis in the NHS and schools. But the Chancellor Rishi Sunak did neither.

He also did nothing on the pressing and existential issue of the climate crisis. The word climate des not appear in the Budget speech, and the word environment appears just once, to justify cutting taxes on beer!

This Budget unfortunately continues the long and terrible tradition of Tory Chancellors and PMs ever since 2010, of robbing people on average and low incomes and giving to the rich.  They are a rogues’ gallery of Robin Hoods in reverse. Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson belong there just as much as Cameron, Osborne, Hammond and May.

Many of the biggest measures were known in advance. The effect of drip-feeding to the media over days and weeks is to dilute what they are doing as a package.  As the think tanks like the Resolution Foundation show, these are a series of measures which clobber people who are already struggling. So, the promise to keep the pensions triple-lock has been broken, and leaves our elderly still with some of the lowest state pensions in Europe.  The increase in National Insurance is a whopping tax rise and is unique in that only the ultra high-paid are protected from it.  And we know that Universal Credit is being cut, which affects some of the poorest households including millions who are in work.  The narrowing of the ‘taper’ only reduces the effect of the cut but does not remove it.

All this is done in the name of getting the deficit under control, as the Chancellor claims to be a traditional fiscal hawk. But from monetarism, to deficit control, to the propaganda of ‘build back better’, the branding of decisive turns in Tory economic policy always masks a transfer of incomes from poor to rich, from workers to big business. In other words, austerity.

If debt or deficit control was really a key aim, ministers could not possibly explain that the bank levy and the bank surcharge have been cut, which costs taxpayers billions. Those charges on the banks were imposed to make them repay a tiny part of the money we are owed for bailing them out. But now these charges have been cut, and it is bank shareholder dividends and executive bonuses that will benefit. 

As a banker himself, Rishi Sunak has looked after his own, just as this whole government looks after its own. But this does not include those struggling to get by on the state pension, or on Universal Credit, or even workers on average pay. 

On top of all this there were tax cuts for short haul flights and fuel duty. The government talks a good game about the environment and then does the opposite. It was a polluters’ Budget.

So, a good budget for bankers, polluters and the high paid who fly everywhere. For almost everyone else, it made a bad situation worse.

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