Jeremy Corbyn responded to Osborne’s budget with this simple question:
I ask the Chancellor, ‘If he can finance giveaways that he’s put in his budget to different sectors, why can he not fund dignity for disabled people of this country?’
This is a good question. Do we really want to live in a society which rewards the richest and the most comfortable by making life harder for those who are already struggling? A society which defends corporate greed and rewards ruthless business, while systemically destroying great national institutions? A society in which ministers are “proud” of policies that have increased suicide rates within vulnerable communities?
George Osborne’s 8th budget has reinforced the Tories’ ideological commitment to a policy of state-enforced austerity. Whilst his delivery was awash with commitments to putting “the next generation first” and leading “the world with long-term solutions”, it was clear that the major commitment was to the benefit of big business above all else.
The budget exposed many failures of the Tories’ previous apparent ‘economic enlightenment’, namely the downgrading of growth forecasts set out by the Chancellor himself in the last Autumn Statement. Rewards for the richest were woven in, balanced by more cuts for the most vulnerable.
At the beginning of the last Parliament, UK corporation tax was set at 28%. By the beginning of the current Parliament, Tory policy had reduced the rate to 20%. Today, Osborne announced “Britain is blazing a trail” by slashing the rate further still. By 2020, it will be down to 17%. This means corporations will pay a lower rate of tax than basic-rate taxpayers who will still pay 20%.
In addition to the reward for corporations who, as we all know, always contribute fairly to our economy, Osborne dangled a carrot in front of many of Britain’s highest earners. In a move which is clearly meant to curry favour with the middle-classes, an above inflation rise to the 40p tax-rate threshold was announced. The threshold received a massive boost from £42,385 to £45,000 meaning a £523-per-year tax cut for some of Britain’s highest earners.
Whilst corporations and high earners are rewarded with tax breaks, benefits and constant praise from this Tory government, £3.5bn worth of further cuts were included in the budget. Although it was not made entirely clear by the Chancellor as to where all these cuts would be made, £1.2bn is to come from reforms to disability benefits known as Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
PIP goes towards extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or disability for those aged 16 to 64.
‘Reforms’, to use the Tories’ own euphemism, have already hit disabled people hard since the Tories came to power. Through a programme which makes Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) “proud”, things are about to get worse.
As a part of plans announced last week by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, around 200,000 disabled people who rely on the PIP could be at risk of losing access to the system. In addition, 400,000 extra people could see their benefits cut from the enhanced £82 a week to the standard £55.
It is clear that the Tories’ economic plans are overwhelmingly influenced by the ideology expressed through the contemptuousness shown by Osborne, Cameron and IDS toward those who suffer as a result of their approach. Their steadfast denial of the facts and figures, refusal to listen to experts and the arrogance with which they downplay the genuine concerns of ordinary people raised weekly by Corbyn are clear indicators.
This was a “…budget that puts the next generation first”, according to the Chancellor. The question we should be asking ourselves is do we want the next generation to be influenced by the ruthless approach of austerity, or should we be doing all we can to encourage them to seek a more socially compassionate alternative?
– Support Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).
– Stick it to the Tories with some of these anti-austerity stickers.
– Support or join The Peoples Assembly Against Austerity.
– Sign DPACs petition to “defend disabled people’s right to independent living”.