George Osborne was accused by Jeremy Corbyn of delivering a Budget with “unfairness at its very core”, as the Labour leader attacked lowering taxes for the well-off while cutting billions from public services and disability benefits.
In one of his most impassioned Commons performances as Labour leader, Mr Corbyn seized upon downward revisions in growth forecasts, and missed targets on deficit reduction, manufacturing and exports to claim that the Chancellor was inflicting “the price of failure” on the most vulnerable people. The biggest single revenue raiser in the Budget will be cuts to personal independence payments that will affect 600,000 disabled people – raising £4.4bn over the next five years. Mr Corbyn said the disabled would be “robbed of £150 a week”.
“Those are not the actions of a responsible statesperson; they are the actions of a cruel and callous Government who side with the wrong people and punish the most vulnerable and the poorest in our society,” he said.
“The Chancellor could not have made his priorities clearer,” he added. “While half a million people with disabilities are losing over £1bn in personal independence payments, corporation tax is being cut and billions handed out in tax cuts to the very wealthy.” He also challenged the Chancellor’s claim to have delivered “a Budget for the next generation”, arguing that the measures did little to support young people on low incomes, or address a forecasted increase in child poverty.
“The Government’s own social mobility commissioner said that ‘there is a growing sense…that Britain’s best days are behind us rather than ahead’,” he told MPs.
“The next generation expects to be worse off than the last. The Chancellor might have said a great deal about young people, but he failed to say anything about the debt levels that so many former students have; the high rents that young people have to pay; the lower levels of wages that young people get; and the sense of injustice and insecurity that so many young people in this country face and feel every day.”
Mr Osborne said that reforms to welfare payments for disabled people would ensure “support is better targeted at those who need it most” and insisted that the Government would still be spending more in real terms on supporting disabled people that at any time under the last Labour Government.
Stewart Hosie, economics spokesperson for the SNP, told the Chancellor that he had delivered a Budget he would be “unable to sell in Scotland”.
The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, warned that a decision to increase business rates relief for small enterprises, which will cut the incomes of cash-strapped local councils, would be “disastrous” for communities, affecting social care, transport and rubbish collections. “This is the Chancellor’s sweet and sour budget,” he said. “Political advisors high five in a boardroom, ignorant to the impact they have on real people.”
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said: “Children’s centres, short breaks for disabled children, teenage pregnancy initiatives and youth work will be among services[that] will see their funding cut by nearly three-quarters in the decade up to 2020. Severe spending cuts will continue to hit poor and disadvantaged children the hardest.”
Brexit warning: Conservatives clash
George Osborne clashed with Tory Eurosceptics as he argued that a vote for Brexit in June would jeopardise the economic recovery.
The Chancellor quoted the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) that a Brexit vote would “usher in an extended period of uncertainty”.
John Redwood, the former Cabinet minister, later challenged Mr Osborne to be “a little more sceptical” about OBR forecasts. He said: “Over the period we have had the OBR, the one thing we can be sure is its always wrong. What is stunning is the degree of the error.”Reuse content