Universal Credit is ‘here to stay’ – says Hammond


TORY Chancellor Hammond, yesterday in his budget claimed to jeers: ‘the era of austerity is finally coming to an end.’ This is the opposite to PM May’s assurances that ‘austerity has ended’.

He said that ‘under this Conservative government austerity will come to an end but discipline will remain.’ He then however admitted that predicted growth is forecast at just 1.6%. In 2020, he expects 1.4%, 1.5% in 2021 and 2022 and 1.6% in 2023. Underlining his fear of a looming no-deal Brexit with the EU he announced an additional £500m set aside to prepare for a no-deal.

On Universal Credit he insisted that it was a ‘necessary reform’. He had to admit there were ‘concerns over the implementation.’ but said: ‘Universal credit is here to stay.’ On low pay, Hammond said that he is discussing with the leadership of the unions. He said: ‘We will engage responsibly with the employers, and the TUC and come back in the next few months with our proposals.’

While the NHS, schools and council services are being cut to the bone the Tory Chancellor announced an extra £1bn for the armed forces. He said that money handed to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) this year and next is ‘to boost our cyber capabilities and our anti-submarine warfare capacity’. The Dreadnought programme is the Royal Navy’s nuclear Trident missile system, which will cost £167 billion over its 30-year lifespan.

Attempting to appease the DUP in the north of Ireland the Chancellor said his budget will mean additional spending of £320m for Northern Ireland government departments in 2021. Hammond promised there would be ‘larger sums to come’ as a result of his forthcoming spending review. He also approved a city deal for the Belfast region which will mean £350m of additional funding over 15 years. There was also a £2m one-off payment to help with the impact of the Primark fire in Belfast city centre – all this to keep the DUP on side.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in response to the budget: ‘People have had enough austerity and cuts. ‘The Prime Minister pledged that austerity has ended. This is a broken promise budget. ‘What we heard today is quick fixes and half measures, while austerity grinds on. This budget promises ideological tax cuts to the richest in this society.

‘This budget will not undo the damage done over the last eight years of cuts. ‘The government says that austerity has worked and so it can be ended. This is the opposite of the truth. ‘Austerity needs to end because it has failed.

‘The impact of austerity on people’s health is more than the extra amount he has pledged for the NHS.

‘In the poorest parts of our country life expectancy has actually fallen. ‘The illness is austerity, failure to invest in social care, cuts to housing.’ On Universal Credit, Corbyn did not call for it to be scrapped, instead he said: ‘We believe that the roll-out must be halted immediately.’