Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement on public spending is a desperate and fraudulent effort to claim the Tories are on the side of ordinary people. We can say that with certainty even though Socialist Worker went to press the day before it happened.
In advance of Hunt’s speech, ministers trailed various rumours about tax cuts. It was likely that the biggest gains would go to businesses. They will be showered with profit-boosting handouts.
The Financial Times reported, “Government insiders expect Hunt to fulfil his ambition to make permanent the flagship capital allowance regime, which is due to expire in 2026, at a cost of about £9 billion a year.”
That’s money that could have gone to the NHS, schools, pay and benefits.
Hunt was also expected to cut income tax or national insurance. A senior Tory insider said, “They’ve been looking at a 1p income tax cut. Number 10 needs a silver bullet. They need to do something to calm down the right of the party.”
None of this is likely to boost the dying government’s fate. There were rumours that the Tories might cut or abolish inheritance tax—paid on only 4 percent of estates. But Hunt was expected to shelve this because it would rightly be viewed as a cut to help people such as “Jeremy and Rishi”.
Ministers are celebrating falling inflation. But the RPI rate, which is most accurate because it includes housing costs, is still running at 6.1 percent. Any wage “rise” or benefit “increase” less than that is a cut. And millions of people are still facing rising household and shopping bills.
However empty Hunt’s programme is, the other guarantee is that Labour won’t be proposing anything very different. Keir Starmer and his followers are auditioning to be a safe choice for big business and the bosses.
Streeting added he wants to be “quite tough on NHS England” to encourage it to be more open to bringing profit-hungry companies into the health service. The real NHS problem is lack of funding.
Last week Hunt denied a plea for £1 billion extra to deal with the winter crisis. That’s despite 7.8 million people waiting for hospital appointments in England.
Tories to cut benefits—and Labour to back them
Benefit cuts kill—and the government is going to make more of them and take away medicines from some people.
A coroner wrote to work and pensions secretary Mel Stride warning that the workings of the benefit system can worsen symptoms of mental illness. This came after a man killed himself amid fears over his application for universal credit. Days before he died, a psychiatrist saw him and “considered his anxiety was exacerbated by his application for universal credit”.
Yet the Tories will now make this worse with new threats. Mel Stride said, “Our message is clear. If you are fit, if you refuse to work, if you are taking taxpayers for a ride—we will take your benefits away.”
Universal Credit claimants who are still unemployed after a year will face a review which will insist on new conditions. If the claimant doesn’t accept these, benefits will be stopped.
There will be even “stricter sanctions” for people who are deemed by the government to be someone who “should be looking for work but isn’t”. Claims will be closed, and people could lose access to free prescriptions and legal aid.
The Times newspaper said, “Once Labour might have been tempted to oppose the plans as cruel… Under Sir Keir Starmer—and particularly his Blairite new shadow work and pensions secretary, Liz Kendall—Labour has taken the opposite view.”Original post