Rishi Sunak had a great opportunity last week to take positive action to ensure that those people who need help in the coming months will get it. He had the chance to delay the rise in National Insurance contributions. He had the chance to restore the Triple Lock on pensions. And to ensure that the largest companies and individuals making excessive profits were taxed fairly.
He chose not to take that opportunity. Instead he chose to play politics.
The tax reduction announcement that he came out with in the dying moments of his speech was pure politics.
The reduction in the basic rate of income tax, from 20% to 19%, won’t come into effect for two years. In that time most of us will have to pay 24 mortgage payments, 24 gas and electricity payments, 24 credit card and car loan repayments, and 24 car insurance and house insurance payments. Amongst others!
As prices rise steeply over the coming months these increases will break many people. The rises will force people to choose between heating and eating. And leave them in debt that they might take years to shake off.
The Chancellor could have dealt with all of that. He said on BBC News on Sunday that “We’ll help where we can”, without seeming to realise that as Chancellor he has the power to decide where, and who, he was going to help.
The answer was clear. He chose to help very few people, and certainly not the people who need it the most. Okay, the hike in the lower rate that we start paying NI will be helpful for many taxpayers. But I think that the reason for that realignment was to do with his longer term plans to reform the tax system and bring NI into line with income tax. It wasn’t about being a real help to taxpayers in the short term.
And the 5p drop in the rates of fuel duty takes prices back to where we were a few days ago.
Apart from that there really wasn’t much to talk about.
A real wasted opportunity from a Chancellor, and a Government, that just don’t seem to care.