You have a bit of an advantage over me this week. By the time you read this, the Chancellor the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, will have delivered his Spring Budget and you’ll probably have a good idea about what the Government will be spending and on what. As I write, I don’t yet know the full details. I probably know more than I should as the Chancellor is not a shy and retiring type. Instead, he’s spent the last week or so boasting to anyone who’ll listen, leaking announcements and starring in his own long self-promotional video (paid for by all of us as taxpayers).
The Chancellor’s ego aside, I thought I’d use my column this week to talk about some of what I think should be in the Budget. Firstly, we have seen throughout this crisis just how important our key workers are. For months we clapped our carers, but now it seems that the Government want to freeze the pay of many of them. A pay freeze, in real terms, is a pay cut and that’s no way to thank those who have done so much to get us through the crisis.
They like to pretend now that they had nothing to do with it, but the reality is that the Tories have spent 11 years of cutting public services to the bone – whether that’s schools, the police (half of Britain’s police stations have closed since they came to power), the NHS or local councils. These same public services have been on the frontline during this crisis. They need proper investment, as they will also be on the frontline of our recovery from the pandemic.
There are also some scandals that have emerged or ballooned during the pandemic which require urgent action. The Chancellor has spent months ignoring those – largely self-employed and freelancers – who have been excluded from any financial support, and the Government have proposed a solution to the cladding scandal that will lead many to lose their homes or declare bankruptcy as they pay for the negligence of others. It is up to the Chancellor to address these scandals and millions will be watching in hope that he does.
The debate over the Budget for the next few days and weeks will be dominated by spin, but we need more than just slick self-promotion from the Chancellor – we need real action in the face of this crisis, so I’ll be looking very carefully at what the proposals actually are and not what the Chancellor wants us to believe they are.