Opinion: ‘A strong whiff of decay from budget’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 7th November 2021, 3:45 pm
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak holds the budget box . (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak holds the budget box . (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Sometimes gimmicks give away more than they intend. The government’s latest budget does nothing to address the profound inequalities between regions and social classes.

Taxes are up. Yet, there is cheaper beer and wine.

It’s as if the government wants the public to see the budget through the haze of inebriation.

The Conservatives have been in charge now for over 11 years.

They have gone through three prime ministers. There are children in school now who know nothing but Tory-led governments affecting their teachers’ pay, the condition of their school buildings and the availability of doctors.

Can we honestly say that after 11 years we are feeling happy or even comfortable with the effects of over a decade of Conservative rule? Here in Peterborough, this has stretched into two decades. We have lurched and stumbled and tripped.

The Tory government which was supposedly elected in 2010 to deal with holes in the budget, has run up debt far beyond the levels Gordon Brown ever did.

Vital services including policing were cut. We had more tinkering with the NHS: it speaks well of the professionalism and dedication of our doctors and nurses that it endures regardless. We are now supposed to believe that after having set the agenda for the decade, this government is ready to take us into the future.

Things pass.

This budget had a whiff of decay about it. Slogans get tired when they are not fulfilled by action. The “levelling up” agenda is mere words unless there is a significant investment in the human and physical infrastructure required to make it happen.

The government’s commitment to this is questionable. Even if it was more committed, the mistakes it made, such as spending extravagant sums on a Track and Trace app whose efficacy was limited, has constrained its ability to manoeuvre. Trade deals have been struck, such as for Australian and New Zealand agricultural products, whose effects on our farmers are yet to be felt. We are left with a government which is reactive, unimaginative and tries to paper over the cracks with measures like cheap booze.

Here in Peterborough, it’s much the same. The local administration is here because it’s here.

They want to be in power because they are in power. There is no sweeping vision of the future; it says much that they are happy about getting a Brexit Museum. It would be far more apropos if we had museums which cover Peterborough’s rich history extending from the Tudor age to its vital role in our nation’s railways. When ideas and money run out, all that is left is just latching onto headlines, like a feather floating on the wind.

This kind of intellectual and ideological lassitude only breeds cynicism; people lose faith that democracy can change their lives for the better. Apathy is the sole winner. But apathy is also the friend of the status quo.

I was heartened by the response of our shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, to the budget. Labour is going to continue to push forward a strong, progressive agenda.

This last budget is indicative of an exhausted Conservative Party; fortunately, Labour is ready to charge ahead.