Reactions to the Budget – “Conservatives so out of touch they are living on another planet”

Here’s some of the Lib Dem reaction to today’s Budget. Mary and Caron will keep updating it as the day goes on.

First up:

And Wera Hobhouse amplified this point:

Ed Davey’s first reaction was that the Budget showed how out of touch the Conservatives are:

This Budget shows the Conservative Party is so out of touch they might as well be living on another planet.

Jeremy Hunt and Rishi Sunak had a chance to show they care about the cost-of-living crisis that’s hitting millions of Britain’s families and pensioners but they failed miserably.

People are desperate for real help especially a cut to their energy bills – but all the Chancellor could offer is empty words and more unfair tax hikes.

We also saw a total failure to invest in fixing our crumbling hospitals and supporting local health services. It shows the Conservative Party doesn’t understand that you can’t get Britain ‘back to work’ without fixing the crisis in our NHS and social care.

Tim Farron was quick to get a cheeky comment in after the story about Rishi Sunak paying for the grid to be upgraded for his private heated swimming pool.

Wera said the measures on renewable energy did not go far enough:

Lynne Featherstone was in Government at the time of the “omnishambles” budget in 2012, so she knows what she is talking about here:

Farron is still enjoying himself:

Caron comments:

The big childcare announcement sounds great, but will there actually be enough nursery places for every child over the age of 9 months. It’s a good idea, but it comes with reducing the ratios of staff to children which, for very young children is a concern. It’s something that we stopped Liz Truss doing in coalition.

Even with an increasing number of women in Parliament, it has taken 25 years since the first big influx of women for this change to be made. A more diverse Parliament has changed the political agenda but, my goodness, it’s been slow.

There will not be economic growth without job creation, but employers are finding it hard neough to fill their vacancies. In health and care particularly this is thanks mainly to Brexit. The Chancellor announced all sorts of measures to get people back to work – lifting the cap on tax free pension pots is a big carrot for the well-off. For the poor and disabled, however, it’s much more stick. The welcome abolition of the terrible Work Capability Assessment opens the door for disabled people to be pressured back to work through what is at least initially a voluntary support scheme. Those on Universal Credit face having to work more hours and carry out more intensive work searches or be sanctioned.

I would have thought that if you were serious about getting disabled people back to work, you would introduce the right to flexible working and give employers money to make adjustments.

And of course the reason so many people are struggling to work is because they can’t get the health care treatment they need because of massive NHS waiting lists. There’s not much in the Budget to tackle that.

Julie Adnams Hatch, chair of the Lib Dem Disability Association, shares that scepticism:

My first thoughts are about the cost of lifting the upper limit from pensions compared with, in excess of 75%, less to help disabled people into work.
I am concerned it could become a witch hunt forcing disabled people into unsuitable work  with insufficient practical and financial support.

If the current processes were handled with understanding and compassion without constantly threatening sanctions, more people could and would be in the workforce.

However, I also constantly hear of employers and their other employees making all the right sounds at interview only to leave staff with additional needs unsupported and frequently bullied to the detriment of their health. This leaves them  emotionally wrecked and unemployed – again.

Of course there are successful examples too but my instinct is they are in the minority.

I would also like to see similar efforts being made to help our disabled community providing invaluable voluntary work where it is often easier to arrange times, food needs and rest periods.

Someone also needs to sort out the financial implications for anyone becoming a local Councillor in receipt of allowances – it’s a minefield and very discriminatory.

Christine Jardine, our Scottish Affairs spokesperson, attacked the proposed rise in whisky duty, saying distillers were being hung out to dry:

This is terrible news for one of Scotland’s most iconic products.

It seems the industry cannot catch a break. Energy bills have spiked, the SNP’s alcohol consultation threatened to close down their gift shops and now the Chancellor is whacking up tax. Distillers are being hung out to dry.

I know that the Conservatives are desperate for ways to fill the economic black hole that their policies have created but additional taxes on Scotland’s national drink will not help our economy to grow.

And on childcare, she queried whether there would be enough childcare centres to provide the care:

It’s now almost half a decade since Jo Swinson made the case that the transition from maternity or paternity leave to funded childcare should be seamless.

Extra money for some families will be a step in the right direction but there are big questions about the infrastructure and staffing needed for such an expansion. No wonder this policy won’t come into force for some time.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that flexible childcare can have huge benefits for families so I hope that the Scottish Government will now move forward with plans to expand access too.

Munira Wilson, our education spokesperson, said similar:

The number crunchers at Lib Dem HQ have been busy since the Budget speech. Their analysis shows that stealth taxes will cost taxpayers four times more than the extra energy bill support announced today.  They tell us:

The freezing of income tax thresholds will lead to a tax bombshell of £12 billion in 2023-24, the latest forecasts from the OBR show. This compares to the cost of almost £3 billion in 2023-24 of extending the Energy Price Guarantee for three months.

The Conservative government’s freezing of tax thresholds will lead to a total stealth tax grab of £29.3 billion by 2027-28, or a total of £120 billion over the coming five years, with 3.2 million people dragged into paying income tax and 2.1 million into the higher rate.

Sarah Olney, who is our Treasury spokesperson, said:

Conservative stealth taxes are more than wiping out the meagre support being offered to families with soaring energy bills.

It is a stealth tax bombshell for the hard working middle, coming on top of rising food prices and mortgage payments.

Jeremy Hunt must come clean about the impact of these tax hikes on households across the country. Families are trying to budget from month-to-month, and they need to know just how bad these tax hikes will be.

On top of all that, documents from the Office of Budget Responsibility that were released alongside the Budget say that house prices are expected to fall by 10% by 2025. Helen Morgan, our spokesperson for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, dubbed it Hunt’s House of Horrors.

For millions of families and pensioners this Budget is Jeremy Hunt’s house of horrors. People are seeing their house prices tumble, yet support from the Chancellor is nowhere to be seen.

This is more proof that the out of touch Conservative Ministers are failing millions of hardworking families across the country.

Rather than helping big banks the Government should introduce a Mortgage Protection Fund to protect families and pensioners from the Government’s spiralling rates.”

A final thought from Caron. You would think that Lib Dems would get excited about money to fix potholes. However, Jeremy Hunt’s £200 million for all of England really doesn’t seem enough when you consider that the Lib Dem budget dramatically passed by the City of Edinburgh Council had £11 million for that city alone.

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  • Peter Martin 16th Mar '23 - 11:05am

    It’s probably not just the Tories. I’m sure that the Economists who write the OBR forecasts can’t all be on the right of the political spectrum.

    For example Mr Hunt stated:

    “At the Autumn Statement I also announced that public sector net borrowing must be below 3% of GDP over the same period.

    The OBR confirm today that we are meeting that rule with a buffer of £39.2 bn.

    In fact our deficit falls in every single year of the forecast, with borrowing falling from 5.1% of GDP in 2023-24, to 3.2% in 2024-25, 2.8% in 2025-26, 2.2% in 2026-27 and 1.7% in 2027-28”

    Haven’t we heard all this kind of thing before? I seem to remember similar Tory OBR claims about ending government borrowing over a 5 year period of a future Parliament. All at the same time as promising significant growth rates too! Can anyone remember when they’ve been anywhere near right?

    They won’t be right this time either and they know it. They’ll also know that we’ll have forgotten all about these nonsensical forecasts in a year or two, so they can effectively say what they like.

    Using the very simple principle of the sectoral balances we know the government’s net borrowing will always equal, to the penny, what everyone else wants to net save. How can anyone know what this will be?

  • Peter Hirst 20th Mar '23 - 3:02pm

    My wishful thinking is that they did live on a different planet. Unfortunately, they don’t. We should point out their self serving values and principles should mean they become and remain irrelevant for as long as it takes for them to change – at least two electoral cycles.

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