As always in relation to the budget, only in the days after its political “theatre” and the headlines around it fade does the deeper consequence that will flow from it emerge. This is particularly the case in a budget that is merely a preview of what will be the new economic set-piece - an Autumn budget planned for later this year. Even with few headlines however, today’s budget still reveals the plan for the failed ideology of austerity to continue. This despite, as independent analysis from the Institute of Fiscal Studies shows, the UK experiencing the weakest growth in living standards in 60 years, with lowest income families hardest hit.
As a consequence, a budget that does not change course does nothing to address the triple threat of rising prices, current/imminent welfare cuts and a tax regime that despite the publicity around personal allowances still disproportionately benefits the richest in society. In addition we also see the continuation of the gift to the richest corporations that the planned cut to corporation tax (forecast to fall to 17% in 2020) represents.
Whilst the budgetary implications for the NI Block grant in this budget are relatively small it is clear that regressive longer-term political/economic decisions are being made about the distribution of wealth and the type of society in which the Government want us to live. We do not accept, however, that the choices before us are as narrow or that the decisions presented to us are as unchallengeable as they appear. This is where the trade union movement has to intervene and continue to offer both a material defence of living standards and present a more constructive and progressive vision for our members and their families. As we’ve shown before (in relation to proposed tax credit cuts last year for example) we can play our part in wider opposition to and change of unacceptable policy proposals. In this way, in our public services defence campaign we must oppose any polices that threaten to cut or freeze pay, undermine public services and/or dilute the terms and conditions of employment of our members.