As you will be aware today saw the release of what was described as a “mini-budget”. While there is now a new Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister overseeing such events, the echoes of their predecessors’ preference for avoiding the fullest scrutiny remains. Indeed, the release of such a budget statement in this manner without accompanying Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts/analysis of the figures at this time, suggests that the longstanding, limited commitment to accountability is likely to be further diminished by the new leadership at the top of the UK Government.

At a local level we are still awaiting detail on how and when “support” (a rebate on electricity/gas prices and a mooted £100 payment for those who use home heating oil etc.) will be realised and whether, on the latter in particular, this will increase. What is clear, however, is that nothing announced today in any way addresses the full reality of the economic catastrophe that is being experienced by the vast majority of people in and out of work. The fact that the idea of “warm banks” – (community/public buildings providing a place to keep warm when you can’t afford to heat your own home) has entered public discourse and joined the normalisation of “food banks”, shows the shameful disintegration of proper public provision that has been brought about by decades of a market ideology written by and delivering for the tip of the economic pyramid.

Some of the political rhetoric may refer to the UK Government engaging in “political risk”, an economic “gamble” and the PM wrestling with “difficult decisions” but analysis of “who benefits?” from today’s announcements clearly shows that those in power are revisiting the punitive, failed “trickle-down economics” of the Thatcher/Reagan era. Such an approach unleashes the same ‘light-touch’ recklessness and (over)reward of those in charge of it.

Contrast for example, the “carrots” offered in the form of scrapping a planned rise in Corporation Tax (a £19bn tax cut on corporate profits), the cut in the top rate of income tax (from 45% on earnings over £150k to 40%) or the shameful lifting of the cap on bankers’ bonuses versus the stick (in England and Wales, our Welfare system is devolved) of further penalising those low-paid, part-time workers on Universal Credit whose job search for extra hours is not regarded as “vigorous” enough. Finally, on the future cut of basic rate of tax (a promise of a 1p cut) it is estimated that the average person will save £170 a year while the Treasury’s own figures suggest that 660,000 at the top of the income bracket will benefit by this new top rate of tax with a saving of £10k a year on tax. The Resolution Foundation a think tank that focuses on the economic effects of policy on “low to middle incomes” suggests, for example, that the Chancellor has just given someone earning £1m a year a £55k tax cut. While there will be much “spinning” around how much tax this class theoretically does pay – we all know who avoids tax (indeed employs an army of experts to advise how to do so on-shore and off) and that the rest of us pay it as we earn.

As this overview makes clear the scale of what our members and their families are dealing with in relation to all aspects of the cost of living crisis (including further interest rate rises) will not be assisted by today’s announcements as we watch the further shameless transfer of wealth to the existing beneficiaries of an economic system that facilitates their every need.

Many of tomorrow’s headlines will refer to the “biggest tax cuts since the 1970s” but it should not be forgotten that such recklessness at that time was not only challenged, but indeed defeated in many instances by the mass mobilisation of the trade union movement and their allies in the community at the time. This lesson of history should not be forgotten and makes it essential that NIPSA and our allies work collectively to protect our members, fighting to change the corrupt society in which we now live.

Carmel Gates
General Secretary