Blog: The £60bn gamble with the future of our country

Today’s budget is proof the money exists. But the political will to help working people doesn’t

Christina McAnea

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng just announced a “new era”. But his party has been in power since 2010, when he was first elected to Parliament. Today’s “not-a-budget” budget, committing tens of billions of pounds on a gamble with the economic future of our country, is in favour of the rich, and at the expense of millions of working people.

We’re in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis that needs urgent action. But Liz Truss and the new chancellor are willing to wait and watch trickle-down Trussonomics spectacularly fail. It’s billed as a “plan for growth”, but we know the only growth will be for bankers, property developers, and to the list of restrictions on trade unions and the queue at the foodbank.

The government has avoided scrutiny from the Office of Budget Responsibility, by calling it a “fiscal event”, but the Institute for Fiscal Studies has signalled why Number 11 was desperate to avoid scrutiny. Their predictions show government plans will leave the country with a £60 billion hole in the nation’s finances.

We’re told there is no money to fix our overstretched public services, and we must rely on one million volunteers to fix the NHS and social care. The NHS is at breaking point, local government is struggling to provide even the most basic local services, and social care is in crisis. When the essential workers we clapped during the pandemic ask for a pay rise, they’re told to accept pay restraint. Today’s budget is proof the money exists. But the political will to help working people doesn’t.

Imagine what we could do with the £60 billion the chancellor is spending on tax cuts and bankers’ bonuses. UNISON’s report published earlier this month, Together We Rise, spelled out how we could solve the cost of living crisis. We offered a plan – and it cost a lot less than £60 billion. Rather than boosting bankers’ bonuses, the government should concentrate on the low-paid workers crying out for help, by ring-fencing the national minimum wage increase, and giving every public service worker a decent pay rise.

It is possible to fix the broken energy sector and soaring energy prices without borrowing more off the backs of working people. It is possible to solve the housing crisis, to top up our deeply inadequate welfare system, and to end long NHS waiting lists and ambulance queues. But the government doesn’t want to. Their priority is to top up the coffers of the wealthiest in society.

As we head into winter, millions will be left worrying about how they will get through it. They’ll be forced to plan which days they can afford to cook food for their families, and which days they can afford to turn on the heating. Because this government has no mask – they’ve made it very clear they’re only on the side of the rich minority.