The Budget is the government's chance to set out its economic plans and policies to Parliament. Chancellor George Osborne instead used last week’s Budget to launch his campaign to become leader of the Conservative Party.
Far from presenting a viable economic plan for the future of the UK, this party political broadcast was all smoke and mirrors. An expert in doublespeak, the Chancellor marketed his manifesto as a ‘Budget for working people’ even though it will leave working people worse off – according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies the announced cuts to tax credits could hit three million families to the tune of £1,000 on average.
Last week’s ‘Osborne Show’ was an attempt by this magpie Chancellor to claim the political centre ground by stealing policies from Labour. The Chancellor’s plans to abolish permanent non-dom tax status bore stark resemblance to those included in Labour’s last election manifesto. I have long believed that we should help businesses to pay the Living Wage, but Osborne’s introduction of a so-called ‘National Living Wage’ is nothing of the sort. It is merely an increase in the minimum wage introduced by Labour (which the Tories opposed) that will leave families worse off when the changes to tax credits are taken into account.
And what did this Budget offer the north east? The region was not mentioned once, even when the Chancellor discussed his pet project for greater devolution to England’s cities and regions. This was no accident - it was a deliberate snub. James Wharton, Minister for the so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’, later confirmed that the Chancellor’s failure to mention the north east was a clear message to the region. If we want additional powers we must accept devolution by diktat and agree to the government’s imposition of a directly-elected mayor without the guarantee of a fair funding deal for the region. This is unacceptable. Local people have the right to raise concerns about whether a metro mayor is right for the region and should not tolerate such thinly veiled threats.
It is clear that there is a huge gap between what George Osborne said last week and what his Budget actually means. Unfortunately, working families in our area will end up paying the price.