Food bank donations on display outside Downing Street at People's Assembly protest, 21 November. Photo: Jim Aindow Food bank donations on display outside Downing Street at People's Assembly protest, 21 November. Photo: Jim Aindow

Despite heavy opposition and protests, Philip Hammond’s budget continues with austerity. A short round up from Counterfire of some of the reactions.

Chris Nineham

Hammond’s budget is a disgrace. Faced with a housing crisis, an epidemic of food poverty, a widely recognised crisis in the NHS and a growing emergency around welfare payments in the run up to Christmas, the Tories have offered precisely nothing. As even the Guardian says, there is no element of redistribution in the budget despite this growing suffering and the fact that  ‘Britain remains a paradise for the rich.’

Last night there were successful budget protests organised by the People’s Assembly all over the country. Hundreds brought food to Downing Street for those in need and were addressed by Labour MPs, nurses, disability campaigners, teachers’ representatives and many more. 

Hammond’s pathetic effort is only going to weaken a government already on its knees. In the coming days and weeks the movement need to be piling the pressure on the the government on these issues and calling for it to go.

Homelessness in particular is spiralling out of control and the aspiration to end rough sleeping in London by 2027 is breathtaking in its callousness. It’s not just that Hammond and his colleagues are out of touch, their class position and unflinching commitment to austerity have stripped them of even the most basic humanity. We need to be demanding that local councils and mayors organise emergency shelters and take over empty properties to deal with the problem.

Diane Abbott MP

The Shadow Home Secretary made the following comments on social media in response to the budget:

Kevin Ovenden

Hammond has just further priced first time buyers out of the housing market.

The Tory government is in such a mess in Britain that it believes the most light-minded rubbish about what drove this year’s general election. It seems to think it was about essentially middle class twenty-somethings who are just that little bit short of buying a house.

Hence the policy of abolishing stamp duty on house sales under £300,000, saving the legendary first time buyer a whopping £5,000. It might be news to the Tory government, but there are not that many people who are just that £5,000 short of shelling out to buy a place.

Hammond is not daft. He goes to bed reading spreadsheets. This is nothing to do with seriously addressing the problems facing young people and housing. It’s not even that much of a sop to the children of the better off middle class.

It looks very much to me like a move to undergird the housing market in London and the South East, which in the last six months has taken a very sharp turn downwards. And the consequence of putting skates under the housing market in London and the south east? It is by all economic lore that house prices will rise more sharply in a market with renewed velocity and thus… buying will be further out of reach for first time purchasers.

This is the logic of the market.

Kevin Courtney

Commenting on the commitments (or lack of) to funding education in today’s budget, the Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union said:

The Government had a big political choice to make in today’s Budget – to invest in education, or to continue with its damaging policy of real terms cuts. The Budget, with no significant new money for education, shows that the Government has chosen to ignore the anger of parents and the clear evidence of the problems being created by real terms cuts to education. Parents and teachers will be deeply disappointed.

Despite the worsening teacher recruitment and retention crisis and the huge real terms cuts in teacher pay since 2010, the Chancellor had nothing to offer teachers or the profession. Instead of school staff losing jobs or seeing the value of their pay cut, the Government needs to invest in those working in education.

The Budget has failed the key tests the National Education Union set for the Government on education funding. The Chancellor has failed to reverse the real terms education cuts; failed to provide new money to fully fund all areas of education; failed to level-up funding to address historic underfunding; and failed to guarantee the investment needed for future years.

Lindsey German

Speaking at the People’s Assembly Against Austerity’s demonstration outside Downing Street yesterday, the Convener of the Stop the War Coalition said:

Mark Serwotka

The General Secretary of the PCS, made the following statement:

The abject failure of the chancellor to address the issue of public sector pay sums up this government’s attitude to its own workforce. In his Budget the chancellor failed to either make clear the cap is to be scrapped or put additional funding into departments to fund above inflation pay increases.

It shows the government doesn’t care about the crisis that its austerity programme has created. Our members sent a resounding message to the chancellor in a recent ballot that the cap needed to be scrapped. His failure to listen and act is staggering. 

PCS will now, as a matter of urgency, step up our campaign on pay, in alliance with other public sector unions, to force the chancellor – or anyone who replaces him – to rectify this deeply damaging policy.

Laura Pidcock MP

In a HuffPost blog, the Labour MP for North West Durham listed five problems with the Chancellor’s announcement on Universal Credit:

1Taking out the initial seven day waiting period only reduces the minimum waiting time for a first Universal Credit payment to five weeks. Many other claimants will wait longer because of the inefficiencies in the system. Overall, the waiting period will still put immense pressure on claimants and their families.

2Advance payments are still a loan, amounting to 50% of a full claim, and crucially need to be paid back. Yes, it will help some claimants in the short term, but it merely papers over the cracks of more, long term financial hardship as deductions are taken from their future entitlement.

3Philip Hammond’s speech rehashed something that has been said to me repeatedly over the last couple of months by the DWP: that claimants will get access to the advance payment loan within five days. But the problem remains that claimants have a gap in the five days that they are waiting for an advance payment to be paid. The vast majority of Universal Credit claimants have no ‘reserves’ to call on.

4We don’t know when these changes will be implemented. Will it be implemented in time for the December roll out of Universal Credit in my constituency on the 13th December? What help will there be to all those people who are already on Universal Credit and are in hundreds of pounds worth of debt and rent arrears?

5It was announced that housing benefit will continue to be paid for two weeks. This is obviously welcome, but is designed for people who are already on housing benefit. What happens to new claimants?

She also shared Jeremy Corbyn’s now-viral comments on social care in the face of persistent Tory heckling during his response to the Budget in the House of Commons:

The Tories have to go now

More austerity and more cruelty are no surprise coming from the Tory government. At the nationwide demonstrations organised by the People’s Assembly on the eve of the Budget announcement, there wasn’t much anticipation that the Tories would make any moves to stop the suffering that they have caused and today Philip Hammond proved us right once again. 

That is why it’s crucial right now that as much opposition to the Tories is shown as possible. There is an overwhelming feeling that the Tories simply aren’t fit to govern and even the mainstream media is having a difficult time trying to mitigate the ever-growing crisis the Tories are in. But when it comes to getting rid of the Tories, we simply can’t sit back and wait, and the ‘how’ is as important as the ‘when’. When ordinary people are able to mobilise en masse around the country and relay our sheer discontent and willingness to fight, that’s how we can not only push the Tories out, but also pave the way for a Jeremy Corbyn-led government supported by a bold and strong movement on the streets.

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