Marching to defend benefits – Hunt's budget is to slash them

TORY Chancellor Hunt delivered his class war Budget in the House of Commons yesterday, announcing that the Household Support Fund will be scrapped on 30th September.

Earlier this week, the Barnardo’s charity warned that scrapping the fund, which has over the past two and a half years given out £2.5 billion to people struggling with cost of living pressures, will be ‘catastrophic’.

Developing his long-standing war on the NHS, Hunt announced a ‘landmark public sector productivity plan’, under which 1.9% annual productivity growth would be demanded.

Describing the NHS as ‘antiquated’, Hunt said: ‘Making changes on the scale we need is not cheap. The investment needed to modernise NHS IT systems so they’re as good as the best in the world costs £3.4 billion, but it helps unlock £35 billion in savings – ten times that amount.

‘So in today’s budget for long-term growth I have decided to fund the NHS Productivity Plan in full…

‘We will digitise operating theatre processes, allowing the same number of consultants to do an extra 200,000 operations a year.’

He went on: ‘As a result of it, the NHS can commit to delivering 1.9% annual productivity growth over the next parliament, more than double the average productivity growth of public services between 2010 and 2019.

‘But today is not just about the NHS. I want this groundbreaking agreement with the NHS to be a model for all our public services, across education, the police, the courts and local government. I want to see more efficient, better value, higher quality public services.’

Labour leader Starmer said in response to Hunt: ‘Food prices are 25% higher than they were two years ago, rents are up 10%, and a typical family is paying an extra £240 a month on mortgages if they have to re-mortgage this year.

‘They lost control of the economy, they set interest rates through the roof.

‘This is the first budget in 70 years to see living standards fall. The party opposite has a former prime minister who said that crashing the pound is the right path for Britain.

‘We have a chancellor who breezes in here with the country in recession and says everything is on track, asking people to pay more and more for less and less, rents up 10%, thresholds still frozen, dragging more and more people into the tax burden.

‘Taxes remain at a 70-year high and British people are having to pay more for less, an unprecedented hit to living standards for working people. It is the first time standards have gone back over the Parliament.

‘Our economy has not grown since the first quarter of 2022,’ – something Starmer says is the longest period of stagnation since 1955.

Earlier this week, more than 160 councils warned that as a result of Hunt’s brutal plan to scrap the Housing Support Fund budget that thousands of vulnerable families are facing a ‘cliff edge’, calling it a ‘vital lifeline’.

Councillor Shaun Davies, chair of the Local Government Association, said: ‘Closing the fund risks more households falling into financial crisis, destitution, and homelessness.’

• see editorial page 6