The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 24th November 2017

Hammond’s miserable budget

by Daphne Liddle

CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond began his Budget announcement on Wednesday with a summary of the state of Britain’s finances: the growth forecast for 2017 is down from two per cent to 1.5 per cent, Gross Domestic Product is forecast to fall over the next three years.

The only thing that has risen is inflation — meaning that the value of wages is going to fall even further.

Earlier in the year Hammond hinted that the damaging austerity policies would be over and that public servants — nurses, teachers, firefighters, council workers and so on — could at last hope to see a little improvement in their frozen wages.

But Hammond announced no new money to fund such wage rises. The only way for the various Government departments to pay their workers more is by making job cuts and reducing services.

As the nightmare of Universal Credit — the single benefit to replace unemployment benefit, employment support allowance, housing benefit and tax credits — slowly rolls out leaving claimants with a six-week gap between the payment of their old benefits and their first payment of the new, Hammond has listened to some of the cries of anguish from people who are literally starving, facing evictions because they have nothing to pay rent with, many of whom are suicidal.

He has tinkered a little with the system and the wait with no money will now be cut to five weeks. And he has made more cash advances available to cover this terrible gap — loans that will have to be repaid in full from the meagre Universal Credit when it does arrive. And now they will get a year to pay off the debt instead of just six months.

Forcing people with breadline incomes into deep debt will cause long-lasting agony for many families. Retail shops this Christmas will feel the draft as thousands of families will count themselves lucky to have beans on toast for Christmas dinner — and no chance of presents.

The only people to benefit will be banks and pay-day loan companies as people spiral even deeper into debt just to survive. Foodbanks will be overwhelmed with demand. Another trend that is likely to rise will be shoplifting as people become desperate.

Hammond has abolished stamp duty for first-time home buyers for properties up to £300,000, and on the first £300,000 of properties up to £500,000. But those who are able to benefit will only increase pressure on the housing market driving prices up even higher.

The social care system is in a total mess, with millions of elderly and severely disabled people just not getting the care they desperately need.

Hammond had promised a new green paper to address the problem but he has deferred this until next summer as residential care homes continue to go bankrupt because what local authorities can afford to pay them is shrinking whilst their costs are rising with inflation.

Hammond has set aside £3 billion to prepare Britain for “every possible outcome” as it leaves the European Union.

North Sea oilfields will get another tax break. There are the usual promises to close tax avoidance loopholes, which are never fulfilled. The ‘living wage’ will rise by 30 pence per hour.

A new Railcard will offer people aged 26 to 30 one-third off of train fares in an attempt to win young voters away from Labour. There will be a small sum to improve recharging facilities for electric cars. There will be a £220 million clean air fund, unlikely to make any significant impact.

There are many little awards like this that will enable the Tories to pretend they are doing something about a host of serious problems — but the sums involved show it for show, not to make any serious improvement.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded passionately to Hammond’s latest budget. He spoke in detail about a long list of injustices inflicted on Britain’s working class.

He concluded: “Our country is marked by growing inequality and injustice. We were promised a revolutionary Budget. The reality is nothing has changed.

“People were looking for help from this Budget, they have been let down. Let down by a government that like the economy they’ve presided over is weak and unstable and in need of urgent change.

“They call this Budget Fit for the Future. The reality is this is a government no longer fit for office.”