It shouldn’t have been hard for today’s budget to exceed expectations – given the mess this government is in they were incredibly low, and given Philip Hammond’s reputation he should have been able to promise some support.
I was following the announcements hoping for relief for under-paid public sector workers with a lifting of the pay cap, investment in social care and our other vital public services. I was also hoping for measures that would help the small and innovative firms that could help our country take advantage of technological changes and meet the skills of tomorrow. I even thought it would be possible that the government might prioritise genuine investment in social and affordable housing for those in Reading who are in such need of it.
Instead we got a series of platitudes and some tinkering. Tim Roache of the GMB called it a ‘let down’ budget and he’s right: even by the standards of the low expectations we have of this government it was a let down.
There was nothing for fire safety works in flats to prevent another Grenfell, no lifting of the public sector pay cap, nothing to support children’s services in tackling Child Sexual Exploitation and increasing referrals to stop abuse. Nothing for small charities affected by the slashing of local government and spike in need for their services.
As Jeremy Corbyn noted, there wasn’t even a mention of social care, the Conservatives have nothing to offer elderly and disabled adults with care needs except more cuts.
There was not enough for small businesses and very worryingly an admission that productivity and growth will be lower than previous estimates – small employers paying the price of this government failing to invest in skills.
What there was was a further £3 billion to help cope with this government’s disastrous approach to Brexit, and a scrapping of stamp duty on houses that the vast majority of renters can’t afford anyway. And there was an orchestrated noisy and rude response from the Conservative benches.
The Labour manifesto offered a real choice – investment in social housing including council housing, the development of Cooperatives and small businesses, reform of the energy markets, re-nationalisation of vital infrastructure while encouraging innovative and small businesses: a sustainable economy for us all.
I was proud to stand as a parliamentary candidate on our fully costed manifesto. If the Conservatives are out of ideas I’m sure we’d have gladly lent them some of ours. Indeed given this Chancellor’s track record he’ll be looking to backtrack soon.