A budget for the rich

by Daphne Liddle

CHANCELLOR George Osborne’s second budget makes no sweeping changes but hundreds of small adjustments in favour of business and at the expense of workers, and especially disadvantaged workers.

And he does nothing at all to retreat from the savage cuts to public sector jobs and services that he made in his first emergency budget shortly after last year’s general election.

He described that budget as “rescue” — to tackle the huge deficit caused by the emergency bail-out of the global banking system and he calls this budget “reform” and the next will be “recovery”.

He claims that the economy is now stable and under control — a claim that is belied by the rampant inflation, now running at 4.4 per cent and way above his declared target of 2.5 per cent, and by much lower than expected (by Osborne) economic growth.

He still does not get it that if you sack hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, make every worker insecure in their job, cut real wages, slash benefits and prices are rising, no one is going to be buying much.

Furthermore he admits that the price of oil has risen by 35 per cent in the last five months; he has had to revise down his predictions for growth from 2.1 per cent to a meagre 1.7 per cent, and he’ll be very lucky to achieve that. The actual economy is now hovering on the brink of return to recession. But he still claims to be in control.

He has raised the threshold for income tax by £630 to £8,015-a-year. This will lift some low paid workers out of paying income tax but it will benefit the super rich much more by lifting a larger proportion of their income out of the higher rate.

Corporation tax has been reduced by two per cent instead of the predicted one per cent and declared that he wants business taxes in Britain to be lower than in any other G20 country in order to attract investment.

He is slightly raising the level of tax to be paid by “non-doms” — rich people who live mostly in Britain but claim they pay taxes elsewhere. But he has granted them a loophole letting them off the tax if they can produce paperwork to show they have been “investing in Britain” — should be no problem for their accountants.

He wants to simplify tax by, eventually, merging income tax with national insurance. This will further undermine state welfare by removing the concept that our unemployment and sickness benefits are covered by our national insurance contributions. It will make it easier to label benefit claimants as scroungers and to pretend that benefits are some sort of discretionary charity rather that a right.

He is also simplifying business regulations by removing those that protect workers from discrimination or involve health and safety measures. Another nasty and underhand attack on the working class. Local authority planning will be forced to prioritise enterprise — at the expense of the environment and anything else. Green measures get scarcely a mention in this budget.

Osborne want to do away with pension credits and give pensioners a flat £140-a-week — but not this year and it won’t apply to existing pensioners. But the pension credit has been a gateway to a lot of other benefits — free glasses, higher housing benefit, lower tariffs on heating bills and many other small discretionary allowances that add up. Future pensioners could be left a lot worse off.

There’s a lot of devil in the detail of this budget and gives us more reason to fight to get rise of this Con-Dem Coalition government as fast as we can — starting with supporting the massive TUC march in London for the alternative this Saturday. See you there.