The Tories are up to their old tricks again. This week’s budget from Chancellor Rishi Sunak supposedly offers the country a route out of the pandemic lockdown. But if the gimmicks are pushed aside, we can see that the budget embeds inequality, side-lines the most deprived, and reinforces the status of people who already have access to assets and cash.
The gimmick of meal vouchers seems like largess, and it would be if it was available to everyone across all communities in the UK. It is designed to appeal to those people who regularly visit chain restaurants, who are better equipped to setting-up the systems and the staff training to take advantage of this give-away. It does nothing for small and independent business who don’t have the infrastructure to claim these vouchers back.
Compare the way that Sunak’s meal vouchers have been trumpeted with the foot-dragging of the government to ensure that hungry children will continue to receive support during the summer holidays. Sunak has learnt nothing from Marcus Rashford’s campaign to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected. Instead, middle-England is encouraged to go on a spending spree as if it is their civc duty!
It also does nothing for people who are struggling to survive because they are now jobless and are surviving on the minimum social security that is given from Universal Credit and Job Seekers Allowance. As one headline puts it, this bung does nothing for people who can’t pay their rent. A half-price meal at Nandos is not the answer.
It also does nothing to solve the obesity and diabetes crisis that has exacerbated the pandemic. It is becoming clear that people who suffer with metabolic syndrome, which includes diabetes, obesity and heart disease (or processed food disease as it is increasingly called), are prone to suffer greater complications and die if they are unfortunate enough to catch the virus. One in four people who die from Covid-19 have previously been diagnosed as diabetic.
Next on the Tories list of cons is the massive bung that is being given to the already wealth and cash rich. The Stamp Duty Freeze is in effect a massive subsidy to those who already have assets and cash. It diverts money into long-term assets and investments, and it takes cash out of the economy. The bung could give some property speculators a bonus of £15,000. No questions asked, with no compulsion to invest that cash into anything socially useful.
The stamp duty freeze does nothing to help anyone who rents or who is in a precarious position with their employment. It does nothing to put cash into the economy, in fact the effect will be the opposite, and will encourage people to horde their cash and assets for a future rainy day. We’ve seen this before with Slasher Osbourne’s supposed first-time buyer subsidy.
This is all about driving-up house prices. It is about keeping mortgage rates ultra-low. It is about protecting the Tories electoral base in middle-England. It is not about to moving the economy forward, protecting lives and protecting jobs. It does nothing to give everyone in society the confidence they need to move forward, either securely or healthily.
The precarious forty percent of the population who have no fixed assets, and who survive on cash income are being left to blow in the wind. The Tories are doing nothing to ensure that there is a decent safety net for those who find themselves out of work now. The Tories are talking about investing in the left-behind, but the truth is that the Tories have taken most from the struggling in the last ten years, and have starved people on lower incomes of the social services and support that they need.
This is typical of the Tories approach. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that they will double-down on the less-fortunate, and will feather-bed the most fortunate.
This blog was updated on Saturday 11th July to add a link to an article about struggling local pubs.