More tax cuts for the rich

by Daphne Liddle

PHILIP HAMMOND, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered his first Autumn Budget Statement today and revealed a £68.2 billion gap in the Government’s income that will have to be filled by borrowing over the next year — a debt to be gradually reduced through subsequent years, unless of course the future beings further unexpected problems. But next year Britain’s debt will be 90 per cent of our gross domestic product.

In spite of this and general falling income from taxes, Hammond granted businesses another fall in corporation tax from 20 per cent to 17 per cent. He admitted this was significantly lower than in other G20 countries and effectively prostituting Britain to international business as a tax haven.

He has also followed his predecessors in raising the threshold at which workers start to pay tax. As ever, this was claimed to be a great boon for the low paid. But these rises in thresholds work their way up through the earnings levels and benefit the wealthy far more than the poor — another hidden gift to the rich.

He praised his colleagues in Government for record levels of employment, a fall in the numbers of benefit claimants and “the lowest ever number of children being raised in workless households” but did not mention that this reveals that the growing numbers of families with children queuing up at food banks are increasingly people in work on wages that are too low to live on.

He did not mention the changes to Universal Credit that are looming but praised the system of “making work pay” that had been introduced by Labour. It is a system that benefits employers and allows them to pay scandalously low wages while the taxpayers put bread on the tables of those workers.

He admitted that productivity rates in Britain are low compared to other industrial countries, meaning that workers here have to work longer to create the same amount of wealth. And he admitted that this was due to low wages and poor investment in industry.

Hammond said: “Raising productivity is essential for the high-wage, high-skill economy that will deliver higher living standards for working people. I can announce today a new National Productivity Investment Fund of £23 billion to be spent on innovation and infrastructure over the next five years,” thus stealing an idea from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

He raised the minimum wage from £7.20-an-hour to £7.50 — a rise of over £500-a-year for a full-time worker. But he now calls it the living wage. That term originally meant a wage not merely to scrape by on but to live a decent life with access to leisure and cultural activities, not a wage that leads to record household debt levels, chronic stress and the need to resort to food banks.

Nor did he mention the levels of Employment Support Allowance — with planned cuts put on hold from a unanimous House of Commons vote last week, which alas, had only an advisory status. So presumably the planned cuts will go ahead. But he did say there would be no further welfare cuts during this Parliament.

He acknowledged we have a housing crisis and announced plans to make a lot more public land available for building houses — by selling it off to private developers to build “affordable” homes. The enclosure movement continues.

Hammond also plans to extend the right-to-buy to housing associations — a move that will sink many of them as their tangible assets, against which they borrow, start to disappear. Over all, these measures will increase the housing crisis.

One odd pledge he made was to provide a £7.6 million grant for the restoration of Wentworth Woodhouse, a stately home near Rotherham in South Yorkshire, that is said to have been the inspiration for Jane Austen’s Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice. He claimed it was threatened by nearby opencast mining authorised by a previous Labour government.

If he thought this would make the population of the North of England feel less neglected by Government spending, the Tory leadership is even more out of touch with this planet than we suspected.

Hammond finished by saying this would be his first and last Autumn Budget Statement — from now on there will be just one full Budget every year, which will be in the autumn. There will be a Spring Statement every year but this will reiterate and update changes made in the full Budget but not introduce any significant changes.