Philip Hammond: the wait and see Chancellor

Today's Budget dodged the big issues

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s first (and last) Spring Budget failed to address the severity of the challenges that lie ahead for the UK.

We are facing the biggest economic challenge in decades. Work is precarious, wages are not yet at their pre-crash level, the housing crisis is worsening and Brexit is looming.

People increasingly feel like they have no control over their lives or their future. Now is not the time to ignore these challenges and just hope the trouble will pass. Now is not the time just to wait and see. But that is what the Chancellor did today.

People will argue about whether the Chancellor broke manifesto promises on National Insurance rises. But what was clear is that big decisions on tax and spending have been put off. Mr Hammond is relying on relatively resilient growth forecasts and borrowing to give the impression that all is well.

People’s experiences tell a different story. Living standards are being squeezed, private debt is ballooning and many public services continue to be strained.

This Budget was a chance to take the first steps towards an economy that really puts people in control and to prepare Britain for life outside the EU. Instead we got a patch-up job that postpones the difficult choices for the future.

No solution to the social care crisis

Everyone knows our social care system desperately needs cash. But far too much of the £2bn the Chancellor promised today will go straight into the pockets of private investors rather than to frontline services.

The Government’s new review of social care should explain how we can support a network of smaller care providers, putting dignity back into the services our friends, neighbours and relatives depend on.

Mixed picture for the gig economy

Increasing national insurance contributions for those at the top end of the self-employed spectrum is welcome as long as it does not put those struggling at the other end in an even more difficult situation.

But meanwhile many companies are falsely defining their workers as self-employed and are avoiding paying their fair share of tax as a result. By not acting now, the Chancellor has missed an opportunity to protect workers at the sharp end of the economy and to raise much needed revenue for public services.

Red budget suitcase
Image credit: HM Treasury

There is so much more the Chancellor could be doing, from ending a reckless fire sale of public land to properly reforming our care system. Today the government dodged the big issues — but our work towards a new economy must continue.

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