The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 10th March 2017

The complacent budget

by Daphne Liddle

LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn described Philip Hammond’s first Budget as “complacent” — a budget that does little or nothing to address the growing crises threatening the future of our NHS and social services that are making the lives of millions a misery.

It was certainly a short budget — the big and damaging cuts to benefits that do not get included in the Budget or debated in Parliament had already been announced in the preceding weeks.

These included cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs), awarded to people with disabilities to offset the extra costs of living with a disability. Those with mental health problems will be the most likely to have their PIPs reduced — because ignorant Tory ministers don’t think they are really ill.

And young people between the ages of 18—21 will lost their entitlement to housing benefit. They are supposed to remain in the parental home or, if they cannot do that, they will have to reconcile themselves to homelessness — only a tiny fraction will be earning enough to afford to rent in the private sector. Being homeless could well scupper their chances of getting or keeping a job.

National Insurance will increase for self-employed workers, rising from the current nine per cent to 11 per cent by 2018. This will affect the “gig economy” — such as delivery drivers.

The tax-free dividend allowance for shareholders has been cut from £5,000 to £2,000 from April 2018.

Hammond has assigned £435 million for firms affected by big increases in business rates and a £300 million hardship fund for those small businesses worst affected.

Free school transport will be extended to all children on free school meals who attend a selective school, and £216 million for a scheme to introduce T-level exams and qualifications for technical and vocational studies as an alternative to A-levels. There will be increased funding for Free Schools, of which many will be selective schools, despite the overall cuts to state school funding — meaning that new grammar schools will be diverting much needed funds from existing state schools.

The NHS will get a meagre £100 million in a scheme to bring GPs into hospitals in accident and emergency units to deal with minor issues and relieve stress on other medical staff.

And there will be £325 million to enable the first NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans to proceed — funding to rearrange services as this new round of cuts goes ahead.

There will be an extra £2 billion for social care over the next few years but it will not be enough to provide a decent standard of care for the elderly or to deal with the problem of “bed blocking”. A whole new tier of convalescent homes might solve that problem — allowing patients time to recover and regain their independence after major operations and other treatments.

There will be £20 million to support a campaign against violence to women and girls — a drop in the ocean that will not in any way compensate for the domestic violence refuges that have been forced by austerity cuts to close all around the country.

Jeremy Corbyn described the Budget as “built on failure and unfairness”, leaving millions of people facing a squeeze on their living standards. He warned that the economy “isn’t working for the many” as the country heads towards Brexit uncertainty and the prospect of more austerity years.

“This is a Budget entirely out of touch with the reality of life for many millions of people in this country,” Corbyn told the Evening Standard. “Millions of workers know their next pay packet won’t be enough to make ends meet. It is a Budget built on failure and unfairness.” The campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts has organised a protest against these cuts on Tuesday 7th March 1—3 pm in Old Palace Yard, opposite the House of Commons.