As a party in opposition, our natural inclination is to oppose. Obviously. And there is much from today’s budget that it could be argued is missing – the pay cap on some public sector workers remains, schools and social care unmentioned, nothing on aviation or the challenged travel industry and freelancers being short changed by furlough compared to those who are employed.
We are in extraordinary times. And the pandemic has caused deep, and long term damage to people’s working lives, incomes, education, mental and physical health. And the ONLY response that any chancellor, of any party persuasion, could offer, was the kind of financial support that was pulled out of the rabbit’s hat today.
It would be churlish in the circumstances, to oppose measures that extend furlough until the end of September, increase (a little) the minimum wage, introduce tax breaks to encourage businesses to invest and grow. The announcements around renewables, freeports and Town Funds could hardly have been better crafted for our area.
It was the kind of budget that were Labour in power, we would have delivered. Investing to support individuals, communities and businesses. In fact the last time we did that, in the face of a Global Financial Crash, we lost the next General Election. And that was nowhere near the multi-billion giveaway we saw today, putting the UK in over £2 TRILLION in debt, carrying a £400 billion deficit and all of us knowing that we will all have to pay at some point.
This exceptionally generous, possibly reckless, budget has been put forward based on some risky notions. No additional financial provision has been made for Covid next year, ignoring the need for booster jabs. It is founded on the belief that once the lockdown restrictions are lifted, the £150bn that UK households have saved in the last year, will spend, spend, spend. There is no evidence that consumer spending will come to the rescue. The same goes for business, Government hopes the inducements will result in investment ignoring that, craving security, they may look to repair their balance sheet instead.
Certainly, this is a welcome budget for today, with little thought for the costs of tomorrow.
But for Grimsby and North East Lincolnshire, we remember we were promised ‘levelling up’. We know that existing inequalities were brought to the fore by the pandemic. We should only accept that the budget has succeeded in levelling up once those inequalities no longer exist.