• Mariam Gevorkian

The controversy behind the 2018 Budget by Phillip Hammond

Updated: Nov 23, 2018

Tweets began rolling in after Phillip Hammond released his strategy of the UK Budget. A lot of controversy has been drawn to Hammond's approach. With claims of 'ending the era of austerity' many questions arise as to how this would be possible to implement following Brexit whilst also trying . I explore this matter further in the following article.

The uncertainty provided by Brexit

One can find themselves inevitably questioning the actual potency of Hammond's policy announcement as his budget will indeed equate to nothing if Brexit crashes into a no deal. If this intense political climate emerges, No.10 will have to devise an emergency budget as no deal with the EU will of course shift the UK's spending ability since money generated will not source from the EU. Hence for now Brexit certainly clouds a vision of future UK spending. Accordingly, the country awaiting the final outcome of negotiations with Brussels indicates that the nation’s finances are too. A no-deal scenario, for which he has allocated nearly £3bn of the nation’s money, will require an emergency budget in the spring.

Disparity surrounding Austerity

The chancellor declared that "austerity coming to an end" before quickly retreating to "discipline will remain”. He defined ending austerity as an above-inflation increase in departmental spending whilst also announcing “My idea of ending austerity does not involve raising people’s taxes.” This can be directly seen as a fire back to Labour who raise taxes to fund state expenditure. Yet there is room for simultaneous hope and doubt as the IFS thinks there is a one in three chance of forecasts for the public finances deteriorating significantly over the next year. The government’s lack of a parliamentary majority would rule out tax increases and it would be politically unfathomable to resort to making cuts despite claiming an "end of the era of austerity" despite all the technicalities.

Is somebody forgetting the environment?

Despite our environment being in a deep crisis, Hammond's budget failed to failed to mention climate change. He spent 500 times more on roads than on planting trees, lavishing almost £40bn on locking us into our cars as public transport deteriorates with no cuts in fares or improvements being made to transport capacity.

Can you please everyone?

It seems that the likely focus of the Budget statement was to in fact please everyone, with bold claims about sparking “Britain’s jobs miracle” and ending austerity, which would “pave the way for a brighter future” - the Chancellor of Exchequer perhaps finds himself juggling too many conflicting promises which in other words are just too good to be true. Hammond showed complacence towards “hardworking families who care little for the twists and turns of Westminster” however household budgets will be lowered after years of austerity. It seems that Hammond has paid specific focus towards vote-winning policies in order to gain support and validity from the public of all backgrounds. His budget even promised a 50p marking the end of EU relations, with his attempt of appealing to Brexiteers and voters who tilt towards nationalist views.

Funding for the "little extras"

Hammond's proposal of £400m for the “little extras” schools need attracted a lot of criticism and out rage on Twitter. The UK faces an era of crisis in the education sector as schools are currently undergoing interventions to save money (such as closing early on Fridays). Hammond's tendency to refer to essentials as 'little extras' has upset the majority of the public to say the least. However the Chancellor has been quick to respond with the following statement: “I maintain that, for most secondary schools, receiving a cheque for £50,000 they can spend on an item or items in year will be money worth having.”And he added: “For anybody who feels it’s not worth having, there will be plenty of schools willing to receive the cheque on their behalf.” The chancellor said he felt 'surprised and disappointed' by the criticism as he targeted the budget towards making a difference in the education sector however it seemingly is being portrayed to not even be an attempt.