The devil is in the detail, or in the case of the Budget, the Government’s Red Book. One week on, I want to reflect on what the budget means for families in East Durham.

The Budget Headline: The Institute for Fiscal Studies stated a person on an average income can expect their real income to fall next year once tax increases and inflation is taken into account.

It is estimated the Government’s tax changes since 2019 will cost an average household £3,000 more a year. At a time of rising food, fuel and energy prices, paying for the basics of life will be a lot harder for people in East Durham.

As we approached the budget, campaigners called on the Government to scrap the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit. The Government made the smallest of concessions, changing the taper rate for Universal Credit recipients in work. However, these claimants will receive just £5.60 a week on average, a net loss of £14.40.

Conservative MPs may claim that cutting UC was about balancing public finances, however, in the same budget, the Chancellor chose to reward banks with a £4 billion tax giveaway, equal to the amount needed to protect Universal Credit.

The Chancellor has tough decisions, but taking money from people struggling to make ends meet to reward banks that brought the global economy to the brink of financial meltdown is morally and economically wrong.

The budget was also the opportunity for the UK to lead the world on climate change as the COP26 host. Unfortunately, the Chancellor gave solace to climate deniers and those in the international community who do not want to act to save humanity from catastrophic climate change.

While the Prime Minister was preparing to warn the world we were one minute away from midnight and climate disaster, the Chancellor failed to read the memo.

The Chancellor announced £21 billion in funding for new roads and promised to cut Air Passenger Duty for domestic flights. Slashing taxes on domestic flights shows the Government are not serious about addressing the climate emergency. Cheaper airfares will make cleaner public transport alternatives such as rail less attractive, especially considering the excessive cost of UK train travel. To make it as cheap to fly as it is to travel by rail is environmental abuse by the Government.

If the UK was a world leader in the fight against climate change, there may be some policy flexibility, however, a Government that once promised to be the ‘greenest government ever’ sits 6th out of the G7 nations on climate infrastructure investment.

The views of activists, campaigners, and charities to the budget were quite cutting:

“The climate emergency should have been the centrepiece ahead of the most critical UK-hosted climate talks in years, but Rishi Sunak spent more time discussing duty on domestic cider.” Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace UK Head of Politics

“With only days to go before Boris Johnson hosts crucial talks in Glasgow, this financial announcement was shockingly bad, and will do little to show his government recognises the enormity of the climate crisis we face.” Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth Head of Policy

“In #Budget2021 & #SpendingReview, the Chancellor pledged just £7.5bn of new spending on climate & nature. Our analysis shows that this leaves our economy vulnerable for the future with a £55.4bn investment hole over the next three years.” Green Alliance

The Government’s Brexit lies on investment were also exposed. Communities like East Durham voted Leave in the referendum believing things would change for the better post-Brexit. The Government promised to match EU Structural Investment which benefitted the North East. Instead, the Shared Prosperity Fund, £2.6 billion over three years is significantly less than the £1.5 billion a year delivered by the EU totalling £4.5 billion over three years.

The Government are levelling down our public services, environment and communities, taking investment and resources away from the local economy and families to fund tax breaks for banks and environmentally destructive policies.

Our communities are seeing high streets with more empty shops, a rise in crime and anti-social behaviour with a police officer nowhere to be seen. A climate crisis, covid crisis, food crisis, fuel crisis, energy crisis, a cost of living crisis, our country is suffering from a Conservative Crisis Government that do not have the answers to address to issues faced by our communities, country and planet.

We can expect more of the same in the years ahead as we have an Etonian Prime Minister and a billionaire Chancellor that simply cannot comprehend the struggles of everyday life for people not born into privilege.

They cannot understand the difference £20 a week extra can make for people living on the poverty line. They increase taxes and take money out of the local economy and cannot understand why shops on the local high street are forced to close. They cannot understand why crime rises when they take away opportunity and hope from young people in deprived communities.

They cannot understand, as if they did, these policies which attack the economic, quality of life and social fabric of our community would represent a complete and total betrayal of the first duty of government.

Whether through incompetence or malice, there is one certainty, Britain needs change, and we need a government and leadership that understands and cares about our communities. Until then, it is our responsibility to campaign, highlight and try to stop the damage and destruction from 11 years of Tory rule.

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