The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequalities within our economy and society. Years of cuts and underspending left our health, care and education services weakened and made us more vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic, leaving the UK with one of the highest mortality rates from Covid-19 in the world.
Rather than investing to build back better, however, this Budget cuts spending on public services: departmental spending will be £4 billion lower in 2021/22 than pre-pandemic levels and between £14 and £17 billion lower every year from 2022 onwards.This will weaken vital public services just when they are needed most to deal with the long-lasting impacts of the pandemic.
And while the Chancellor claimed in his speech that the government’s response to Covid had been ‘fair’ and that ‘our approach to fixing the public finances will be fair’, women and those on low incomes, as well as those from BAME backgrounds, will be hit hardest from cuts to public services. They also stand to benefit the least from the untargeted tax breaks for large companies that the Chancellor has introduced through the ‘Super Deduction’, which will cost £25 billion over two years, and his establishment of eight Freeports.
This Budget was a missed opportunity to rebuild the economy so that it works for everyone and builds resilience into the future.