The big news this week was, of course, the Chancellor’s Budget, a weak and treacherous response to the sacrifices made by ordinary, working people during the pandemic. He has hit working people with the highest sustained tax burden in peacetime and yet has given a tax cut to bankers taking short haul flights to meetings. After a decade of austerity, our public services have been decimated, health and wealth inequalities are soaring and make it much harder for ordinary people to deal with the hardship the Chancellor is imposing on them with this Budget.
While working people are awaiting the hike in National Insurance in April – the most regressive and unfair of taxes – the Government has announced a £4 billion tax cut for banks’ profits and a £12 billion tax cut to large businesses like Amazon. Instead of supporting our small businesses on our high streets which are the backbone of our local communities and local economies, this Government are supporting the business giants whose profits are at unimaginable levels. Amazon and other such companies won’t leave the UK if they are taxed more – they make too much money and a fair level of taxation on them will hardly dent their profits. This UK Government just does not care about the people in this country who are working so hard to simply provide for their families.
One of the worryingly weak aspects of this Budget was the lack of commitment to tackling the climate crisis and demonstrating the UK’s resolve to be a world leader on making the changes that we need to protect our environment. The green transition requires investment – we do not deny that – but that investment should be driven by the UK Government instead of the burden being placed on homeowners and city workers. You tax the behaviour you want to discourage and provide incentives to encourage the behaviour you want to see. Which is why I cannot understand the rationale behind reducing passenger duty on short-haul domestic flights within the UK but providing no national fund to help homeowners and businesses meet insulation costs and other such green schemes.
The Budget does not deliver for Wales and Wales’ priorities. We need support for long-term remediation of Wales’ 2,456 coal tips – Welsh workers sacrificed so much to drive the economy during the coal years in the UK, and yet have been left to deal with the dangerous consequences as the UK Government neglects its responsibilities. Wales were also promised that Brexit would not lead to any loss in investment. EU funding including £375 million of structural funds that supported skills, apprenticeships, and business support. The Chancellor’s promise of £120m in Levelling Up Funds falls far short of what Wales expected and deserves, and shows that Tory promises are not worth the paper they’re written on. Rail infrastructure, and research and development, is another area in which Wales doesn’t get its fair share of investment. HS2 is expected to have a negative impact of £150m per year on the Welsh economy and there is no measures to help address the significant underfunding Wales has seen over the last few years. Wales is missing out on nearly £5bn of investment because HS2 is still classed as an England and Wales project. Wales continues to lose out on around £60m of funding annually for research and development from the loss of EU structural funds which the UK has not replaced. Creative accounting is allowing the UK Government to cheat Wales out of the funding it deserves.
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