TORY Chancellor Osborne delivered a class war Budget yesterday offering whole swathes of new tax breaks for the rich, while hammering benefits, public services, and in particular, education.
He announced that by 2020 it will be every region for itself, with the abolition of central government funding of public services, while also by that year every school in the country will already be, or be in the process of becoming, a privately-run academy.
Osborne opened by warning that ‘the financial markets are turbulent’, there is ‘a cocktail of risks’ and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warns that ‘productivity growth is decelerating’, the economic outlook is ‘materially weaker’ and there is a ‘risk of derailment’.
‘Be vigilant’ Osborne urged, warning of ‘current market turbulence’, and citing the IMF’s recent warning of a ‘risk of derailment’. Unexpectedly, Osborne used the OBR to promote a ‘Remain’ vote in the EU referendum, claiming: ‘I quote them directly: “a vote to leave in the forthcoming referendum could usher in an extended period of uncertainty regarding the precise terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU.”
‘They go on to say “this could have negative implications for activity via business and consumer confidence and might result in greater volatility in financial and other asset markets”.’
He went on to announce tax cuts for the rich and more attacks on the poor, initiating cheers from Tory MPs as he boasted ‘data confirms that we have the lowest proportion of people claiming out-of-work benefits since November 1974’.
He continued: ‘I am asking my right honourable friends the Chief Secretary and the Paymaster General to undertake a further drive for efficiency and value for money. The aim is to save a further three-and-a-half billion pounds in the year 2019-20.’
Declaring: ‘Our policy is to lower taxes on business’ he said that in April 2020 Corporation Tax will be cut to 17% and from April next year business rates for half of British businesses will either fall or be abolished.
Dumping the regions, he announced the complete abolition of central government responsibility for regional spending, declaring, ‘We are devolving power to our nations’, continuing: ‘When I became Chancellor 80% of local government funding came in largely ring-fenced grants from central government. It was the illusion of local democracy.
‘By the end of this parliament, 100% of local government resources will come from local government, raised locally, spent locally, invested locally. Our great capital city wants to lead the way … I can confirm today that the Greater London Authority will move towards full retention of its business rates from next April.’
Turning to the Tory onslaught on education, he said: ‘First I can announce that we are going to complete the task of setting schools free from local education bureaucracy and we are going to do it in this parliament.
‘I am today providing extra funding so that by 2020 every primary and secondary school in England will be, or will be in the process of becoming, an academy.’ A ‘sugar levy’ on sugary drinks would raise £520m, to be used ‘to fund longer school days … voluntary for schools, compulsory for pupils.’ He concluded by warning that ‘the storm clouds are gathering again.’
Responding, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called the budget ‘a culmination of six years of failures,’ saying the ‘recovery is built on sand’ and it is ‘a budget of failure’.