Other than destroy our saving’s income, a feat he has already achieved, the clammy touch of Chancellor George Osborne can do little harm to a bunch of old codgers given to breeding hens. So the response to yesterday’s mini-budget was somewhat muted this morning. In fact the rare treat of a wind and rain free morning had us in a reasonably positive mood. The weather men say that there is stormy weather ahead but we live for the moment. In any case we realise that the economic storms gathering will surpass anything that the elements choose to throw at us.
None of us watched the Osborne performance which, if most of the commentators are to be believed, was something of a ‘dog’s breakfast’. He clearly had a problem, namely that all he and his boss perdicted just a year ago has failed to come to pass, and the effect of the Euro fiasco has yet to kick in. We have always tended to favour the Keynes approach which has it that if you take away everyone’s spending power you inevitably end up in a recession. No spare cash, no spending, no trade, no growth.
Now we apparently face many years of unremitting hardship for those at the bottom of the income league, and unemployment is likely to rise to levels where social unrest will cause problems for the police whose resources have been cut. Yesterday was the day the gvernment was forced to admit that its austerity plan has backfired. It has been, er, too austere.
But one group will be raising a glass to the Chancellor today. Despite endless changes which will impoverish even more those near the bread-line, offset only by a strange reference to a new by-pass for Tunbridge Wells, not one penny more was taken from the top 10% of earners. Fat plums for the plucking stayed on the tree as the poorest bore 16% of the brunt of the new cuts whilst the richest bore only 3%.
According to the Resolution Foundation over £7 billion could be harvested with 40% tax relief on higher pensions whilst most earners will only get 20%. No additional bank levy was mentioned, there was no ‘mansion tax’, so beloved by the Lib Dems, on high-value properties even though owners don’t even pay their fair share of council tax. Worse still, two-thirds of properties worth over £1 million now change hands whilst avoiding all their 5% stamp duty, by using offshore company accounts.
An even bigger omission was mention of tax avoidance and evasion. Another 12,000 tax collectors are losing their jobs while some £25 billion is evaded and £70 billion avoided. In a time of national emergency the Chancellor had no breath of rebuke about the reponsibility of the rich not to dodge taxes, no threat to curb the culture of avoidance. Despite the High Pay Commission report on out-of-control boardroom pay – which even the Institute of Directors has called unsustainable – the Chancellor said nothing.
Instead came the great attack on public sector employees and war on the pay of women. After a three-year freeze, public pay rises are to be pegged at 1% for two years whatever the inflation rate. That might be painful but acceptable if the same criteria was to be applied to the bankers and super-rich. But the direct assault on the poor is almost beyond belief. When charities such as the Children’s Society and Save the Children launch a fierce attack you can be sure that things have simply gone too far.
I suppose the only consolation is that young George did not wheel out his original claim about our all being in this together!
TRY YOUR HAND AT THE MIDWEEK QUIZ ON LEISURE; 1. What imaginative type of game is known by the initials RPG? 2. Which French game’s name is the French word for balls? 3. In which month is Spring Bank Holiday? 4. Which London Museum is the most visited? 5. How many balls are needed to play a game of snooker? 6. What is the national sport of Japan? 7. What is lawn tennis known as when played on shale or clay? 8. In volleyball what do players hit the ball with? 9. What is the Chinese for “dark” and “light” believed to maintain equilibrium? 10. Where is the Jorvik Viking Stadium?