More money for schools, the NHS and Universal Credit were among the eye-catching announcements in Philip Hammond’s budget speech, but as always, the devil’s in the detail.
Once you get past the poor jokes, the glistening knickknacks and the claims that austerity is over, all that’s left is the small print, and guess what? Some of it will leave you and your family worse off, and if you were able to trawl through all 106 pages of the Budget Red Book, plus the independent Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR)’s assessment of the measures of it, here are some things you would spot.
Britain’s poorest people won’t be any better off because buried in a chart of small print notes that the Budget won’t really make the poorest 20 per cent any better off, and this chart explains the total impact of all tax, welfare and public service reforms since 2015.
Look at it and you’ll notice the poorest people are on the left, and they utterly flatline in the analysis. While the wealthiest 10 per cent is taking a hit, it’s the middle-class people, those in the top 30 per cent or 40 per cent who will benefit the most, getting up to £750 a year.
The welfare, housing and justice departments are all being slashed and Philip Hammond made a big play of pumping more money into defence and the NHS, but he was a little reticent about yet more swingeing cuts being imposed on some of the biggest frontline Whitehall departments.
The Department for Work and Pensions is being expected to cut its budget from £6 billion to £5.4 billion in 2019/20 (not including benefit payments), and the Ministry of Justice is being cut from £6.3 billion to £6 billion, and the housing and communities section of Whitehall is being cut from £2.6 billion to £2.3 billion.
That’s despite a welfare crisis, a prison crisis and a housing crisis. Why are they doing this?
That plastic tax will take four years to come in, and Chancellor Philip Hammond insisted he will become a world leader in tackling the scourge of plastic littering on our planet.
Not only did he resist any proposal to tax plastic cups. His big signature move, a tax on packaging that doesn’t have at least 30 per cent recycled plastic will only come in April 2022.
He made no mention of the date in his address, but it’s all in the small print, and this speaks volumes about the Treasury’s priorities, as China, Vietnam and Thailand shut their doors on Britain’s plastic waste, the Chancellors reply is to keep calm and carry on.
The tax on Amazon, Google and Facebook will cost tech monsters a pittance, and according to the OBT forecast, Google and other online colossi could pay an insignificant £30 million each under Philip Hammond’s new tax, and the figure is a mere pittance for these large international assemblies, and the percentage of tax paid by the big five tech giants has halved since 2013, but the new tax won’t come into force until 2020 at which time the tech monsters will start to enjoy a 2 per cent cut in their corporation tax rate.
And it raises even less than we imagined. If you thought the £400 million raised from the Digital Services Tax didn’t look like much, then don’t look at the back of the Budget book. It reveals £400 million a year is only what it’ll raise in 2022. Next year it raises to £5 million, and in 2020/21 it only raises £275 million.
Crack cocaine of gambling stakes will stay above £2 for another year and campaigners blasted a six-month delay to cutting stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2.
The move to cut maximum stakes on the crack cocaine of gambling from £100 had been expected to come into force next April, but the Budget small print reveals the move will not take place until October.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling announced it was “unacceptable”, and Labour’s Carolyn Harris, who chairs Parliament’s cross-party group on FOBTs, was “appalled” at the “wholly unjustifiable” delay.
But a Treasury source stated: “It’s clearly a judgement call. This we think strikes the right balance.”
The extra money for schools can’t be used on pens, books and toilet paper, as Philip Hammond announced an additional £400 million for struggling schools to pay for the little extras they can’t afford.
Countless parents will have sighed relief at the announcement, after getting begging letters from their kids’ teachers, begging for money to pay for such extravagances as pens, books and toilet paper. But they’ll be disappointed. The money is capital spending, ring-fenced for building maintenance and buying equipment. That means schools will be permitted to purchase iPads with the additional money, but not pens and paper.
The Queen is getting a pay increase. The Sovereign Grant, the money given by the government to assist the Queen in her royal duties is going up. Last year the figure was 76.1 million, this year it’ll go up to an eye-watering £82.4 million.
The size of the grant is normally 15 per cent of the government’s revenue from Crown Estates, but last year she got a 10-year increase to 25 per cent to pay for essential refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.
There’s going to be a tax on liquefied tobacco for the first time because the government is set to propose a particular tax on heated tobacco, and the products will be taxed at the same rate as hand-rolling tobacco from April 2019.
The article basically said the tax would also apply to vape fluid, this is not the case and duty on rolling tobacco amounts to about £13.40/unit £0.45/g, all depending on where you purchase it from.
The Tories have finally confirmed they’re delaying Universal Credit, and the rollout of the despised six-in-one benefit will officially close in December 2023, the ninth delay following its last end date of March 2023, and it may only end in June 2024, because the Office for Budget Responsibility assumes it will take six months longer than the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) states.
Delaying the rollout will actually save the DWP £1 billion because thanks to a £1.7 billion-a-year package of help, it’s now more costly than the legacy system would have been. There’s also a suggestion that the funds will be saved because, by delaying Universal Credit, less will be given over to claimants in transition payments.
No Deal Brexit will have a severe blow on the economy and The Office For Budget Responsibility admits No Deal Brexit will have a severe impact, and if an agreement is not reached in time, it could have a drastic short-term impact on demand and supply in the economy.
It is next to impossible to calibrate this kind of situation because of the lack of exemplar as Philip Hammond announced another £500 million in the no-deal Brexit preparations, taking the sum to £4.2 billion.
The Chancellor boasted of “firepower to intervene” if the economy requires more assistance in the coming months with £15 billion of “headroom” to deploy, there’s no Brexit dividend, only years of widespread torture.
And the Brexit divorce bill will be even higher than thought. Again, this is one from the independent OBR, not the Budget report itself, and the experts have revised their estimate up from £37.1 billion to £38.7 billion.
It’s been revised up because of a weaker pound-euro exchange flow, and changes to contribution methods and timetables, and it should be noted that an earlier account of the article stated the divorce bill would be £47 billion, it is understood that this is the sum paid to the EU institutions over the following five years.
A questionable Tory home buying scheme is being reestablished, and it’s costing £9 billion. So, you’d imagine a package of help for first-time buyers costing nearly £9 billion might have been mentioned in the Budget address, but, no, you have to delve into the documents to discover the Help to Buy equity loan scheme is being re-established for two years from April 2021.
The scheme was previously slammed for supporting buyers who were already well-off and allowing a five-year “time bomb” of fees to build up. This time it will be accessible only to first-time buyers correcting an important defect in the old system, but there are still some components of unfairness.
Londoners will be able to use it to get a home worth £600,000, while in the North East it’s only accessible on homes worth £186,100, and the scheme’s huge cost on its own will draw awareness.
And lastly, one cut that isn’t even in the small print, this one’s not in the Budget itself, but the release from the Office of Budget Responsibility. It states capital spending, long-term one-off hits on building plans and the like has been cut, and the Treasury hasn’t spelt it out. Departmental capital spending has further been cut from 2019-20 onwards, a decision that does not appear on the Treasury’s scorecard of policy measures.
It’s rather disturbing that we’re leaving the EU and while there are a number of people out there voted out, in Liverpool they have a work scheme for the young that pays a living wage financed by the EU, the docks and the city revitalisation is financed by the EU, in fact, most things now are financed by the EU.
When we finally do come out of the EU who will finance those things that the EU fund? Will our Tory government fund it, of course, they won’t, and we will end up in an enormous economic depression, and we should be concerned for our children and grandchildren who will inherit this mayhem.
It was a genuinely bad idea to enter the EU, but it will be an even worse idea to leave, better the devil you do know, than the devil you don’t!
Does everyone think that the EU countries will roll out the red carpet and want to trade with us after we leave? Of course, they won’t, they will make it as challenging as they can and Great Britain will end up in an enormous economic depression, and France has already stated they would roll out the red carpet for businessmen retreating from the United Kingdom.
The negotiations of a new agreement will clearly unfold a Pandora’s box of demands, and this is going to be a tremendous test for British politicians, diplomats and officials, and they will need to build up various alliances, offensive and defensive.
And then there’s Theresa May and her loony tunes party telling everybody that they’re ending austerity and that they’ve slashed expenditure right across the board, and of course, it’s worked so well – we’ve seen the National debt sore, and they’re spending more to implement their strategies than they raise, and then you end up with nothing but homelessness and child poverty to show for it.
Philip Hammond announced that the age of austerity was finally coming to an end and that they’ve reached a defining moment on a long hard journey after repairing the damage to the public finances, right now Pinocchio has a smaller nose than Hammond has…
…And he’s promising them a glowing future after years of constraint.
Yet, Philip Hammond warned that an emergency Budget would be required if Britain leaves the EU without a settlement, but Downing Street announced all spending plans in the Budget will go forward irrespective of Brexit.
Arguably he’s just about got to the absolute minimal definition of ending austerity but it’s certainly nothing like a bonanza for the rest of the public services because most of the proposed welfare cuts are still in the works, and with growth remaining persistently low and Brexit pulling down our economy, it’s obvious there are significant problems that still have to be tackled.
There’s a plaster on the Budget that needs to be taken off so that major surgery can begin because this is a fantasy pre-Brexit Budget based on theoretical numbers.