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CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak was accused of punishing workers for the government’s waste and mismanagement as he announced his Budget in the Commons today.
Mr Sunak set the banks up for a £4 billion tax bonanza as he slashed the surcharge on their profits from 8 to 3 per cent, while at the same time hitting workers’ pockets by increasing National Insurance.
The Chancellor said his Budget was focused on the “post-Covid era” and that it will pave the way for the “Prime Minister’s economy of higher wages, higher skills and rising productivity.”
But shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who stood in for Sir Keir Starmer after the Labour leader tested positive for Covid-19, told the Commons that families struggling with a cost-of-living crisis “won’t recognise the world the Chancellor is describing.”
“They will think he is living in a parallel universe,” she said.
“The Chancellor in this Budget has decided to cut taxes for banks.
“So at least the bankers on short-haul flights sipping champagne will be cheering this Budget today.”
Ms Reeves questioned who would be paying for the highest sustained tax burden seen in peacetime.
“It is not international giants like Amazon,” she said. “No, the Chancellor has found a tax deduction for them.
“It is not property speculators – they already pocketed a stamp duty cut – and it is clearly not the banks, even though bankers’ bonuses are set to reach a record high this year.
“Instead the Chancellor is loading the burden on working people. A National Insurance tax rise on working people, a council tax hike on working people, and no support today for working people with VAT on their gas and electricity bills.”
Ms Reeves said that, in return, people are getting a “record NHS waiting list with no plan to clear it.”
“Working people are being asked to pay more for less for three simple reasons: economic mismanagement, an unfair tax system, and wasteful spending,” she said.
“Each of these problems is down to 11 years of Conservative failure.”
Labour MP Richard Burgon, who leads the party’s Socialist Campaign Group, branded the Budget “smoke and mirrors” and slammed Mr Sunak for “claiming the economy is thriving when millions face a cost-of-living crisis, talking of ending low pay while hiking taxes on those in work and cutting benefits, and pretending to level up while key services will remain far weaker than in 2010.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Chancellor has gone from pay freeze to pay squeeze.
“Millions of key workers who saw us through the pandemic will still be worse off than they were in 2010. That puts vital services under pressure as even more staff leave, and it risks the recovery.
“He should have announced fair pay deals for whole industries, negotiated with unions, designed to get pay and productivity rising in every sector.”
In response to fierce criticism over the £20-per-week cut to universal credit, Mr Sunak promised that the benefit’s taper rate will be slashed from 63p to 55p, allowing claimants to keep more of the payment when they increase their working hours, and that its work allowance will be increased to £500.
But Ms O’Grady said: “Workers on universal credit should always have been able to keep more of their wages.
“This change does not make up for the £1,000 per year cut to universal credit, and does not help those on universal credit who cannot work.”
STUC general secretary Roz Foyer highlighted the lack of action towards a green recovery, with transport union TSSA branding it “the wrong Budget for a climate emergency.”
Ms Foyer said: “This Chancellor is adept at recycling announcements, but his record on green investment is truly awful.
“Despite Sunak’s claims to the contrary, there is no infrastructure revolution. On the eve of [Cop26], we should have been hearing of major new funding for transport, housing retrofit and energy.”
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said public-sector workers will not be “raising many glasses to the Chancellor” and that Mr Sunak had only “given back some of what Conservative governments have stolen.”
She also criticised the lack of action for the social care emergency, and said the government is treating the sector as a “bargain-basement service.”
The End Fuel Poverty Campaign said the Budget did nothing for people facing the choice between heating and eating.
“The Chancellor’s cold words for people in fuel poverty will be heard in millions of households across the country,” it said.
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