Labor accuses Sunak of ‘smoke and mirrors’ budget due to lack of new money | Fall 2021 budget


Labor has accused Rishi Sunak of chairing a ‘smoke and mirrors’ budget after conceding that only 20% of its biggest spending commitment unveiled before the speech was new money.

The Treasury has pledged to spend nearly £ 26bn in a wave of announcements ahead of Wednesday’s budget and spending review. It should contain no tax cuts and the Chancellor has sought to reassure worried Tory MPs that he is a fiscal Thatcherite at heart.

After months of general unanimity among fellow parliamentarians and the public as Sunak spent billions on Covid relief, he faces an extremely delicate budget, trying to balance the concerns of Tory MPs about what they see a government increasingly taxed and spending, and demands for new infrastructure.

On Sunday, Sunak conceded that of the £ 7bn to be committed in the budget for what could be the flagship announcement, part of the so-called upgrade program, only £ 1.5bn is in the pipeline. made fresh money.

Asked Sky News about the composition of the money committed for rail, tram and bus projects outside London, Sunak agreed that most of that money had already been announced, with the main news on Wednesday being where it will be spent.

Sunak said he had already announced £ 4.2bn for “the global envelope to improve the way people move in our big cities”, adding: “What we have actually done is is to supplement that, as you said, by £ 1.5bn, but then crucially distribute the allocations in this envelope – where all the bits are going to go.

Of a dozen tracks from the Treasury for budget commitments, several more are not entirely new spending or involve money used to replace previous commitments. For example, of the amounts announced to help victims of crime, including victims of family and sexual assault, only 40% are new. For a new fund for safer streets, two-thirds is new. Other announcements relate to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which replaces EU funding.

Rachel Reeves, fictitious Chancellor of Labor, said: “We have seen a smoky and mirrored weekend before the budget – with a government rather re-announcing plans than getting the job done.”

Sunak argued that by spending on families and early intervention, he did not accept that the removal of Sure Start was a mistake, arguing that the work done more recently by conservative colleagues such as the former secretary of Andrea Leadsom business had only now demonstrated the need for such policies.

“What they show very clearly, as the evidence is, is that the very first years of young families’ lives are critical and this is where parents often struggle and this is where we actually need to pay a little more attention, ”Sunak told Sky.

In response, Reeves said Sunak was offering a “pale imitation that doesn’t even get us back to where we were in 2010”.

She said: “It’s fine to say that we are going to invest in these family parks, but the thousands of children’s centers and Sure Start centers that were proud features of our communities, especially our poorest communities. , are long gone. “

In another interview, with the BBC, Sunak rejected a call from Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United striker and anti-poverty activist, to extend free school lunch programs during school holidays for the next three years.

Sunak said that, as with the time off program, while such programs were needed during the lockdown, “it’s just that we’ve moved to a more normal way of doing things.”

Sunak also confirmed that he would release the results of a review of the companies’ tariffs on Wednesday – but gave no sign that this could lead to a reduction in the levy. Business groups and many Tory MPs have called for a cut to boost main streets, but the Treasury seems resilient.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, former minister David Davis lambasted Sunak for his approach to taxation and questioned the Chancellor’s allegiance to Margaret Thatcher’s tax ideas.

“I knew Margaret Thatcher, so I’ll watch with interest if he can match the shine that Thatcher and her Grand Chancellor Nigel Lawson have brought to government,” Davis wrote.

“Unfortunately, everything indicates so far that his current route will take us over the rocks – not far from them.”

When asked about his policies on Sky, Sunak insisted that he always championed low-tax conservatism: “Of course I defend that, and that’s what I would like to offer, and that’s what. what are my instincts. But you also have to take a step back and think about what the government and I must have been grappling with over the past year and a half? We have suffered the biggest economic shock we have experienced in 300 years.

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