The big picture on this budget is clear. Growth forecasts are down (yet again) and unemployment forests are up. No wonder borrowing forecasts have also had to be revised upwards: you can’t cut a deficit when growth has stalled. If it’s not working a change of policy is needed.
So what has the chancellor done? He cuts fuel duty by 1p – when his VAT increase alone has increased the cost of fuel by 3p, he revises the regulations for gift aid and in his big policy announcements he cuts taxes for big businesses by approximately £2 billion (according to Robert Peston, the BBC’s business editor). Now I have nothing against big multinational businesses, after all I work for one, but the idea that this is a good use of government money at a time when schools are facing budget cuts, small businesses and sole traders are suffering following VAT rises, families are losing their working tax credits, day centre costs are rocketing and the NHS is being squeezed.
It’s a measure of the lack of imagination and thought that the Conservatives government have given to growth that the main transport action is a fund for potholes. This is something that I am pleased about – but it’s hardly going to deal with the unemployment and falling incomes that we’re facing.
What would Labour have done differently? Well the plan was to cut the deficit more slowly in a measured way giving far more leeway for adjusting tax and spending decisions. Yes it would ahve been painful still but it woudl have meant there was a realistic chance for the private sector to grow. Even in Reading, a economically successful town (should be a city!) in the private sector we know that a lot of our business is reliant on public sector organisations.
And so much for localism – here’s a nice tit bit: local authorities will no long be allowed to prioritise brownfield sites over greenfield for development. That’s crazy! Isn’t it obvious that the old brewery site is a better place to build than Kennet Meadows and shouldn’t Reading’s residents and council be the one’s to determine that sort of priority?
I’m off to deliver Labour party leaflets in disgust at this budget!