The UK Government Budget was again a series of missed opportunities

Monday March 20th 2023

Colin Beattie MSP
Colin Beattie MSP, Midlothian North & Musselburgh, writes his monthly column for Midlothian View

The UK Government Budget 2023/2024 was again a series of missed opportunities to help those who need it the most and did not go far enough to address the worries of households across the UK.

As expected, the Chancellor announced extending support with energy bills for households (extending the £2500 Energy Price Guarantee for a further 3 months) and scrapping the “prepayment premium” for those using pre-payment meters from July. This support is a much-needed lifeline that will be stripped away leaving households scrambling to find the extra cash they simply do not have.

Our living standards are expected to fall by 6% over this fiscal year according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). Think tank, Resolution Foundation has stated that if wages had continued to grow at the same pace as before the financial crash in 2008, the average worker would make around £11,000 more than they do now and states that the typical household income has fallen even further behind than those in Germany. Other sources similarly state that households in the UK will have lower income than those in Poland by 2030.

This Budget by no means mitigates these problems but sets us on a downward trajectory with more households being plummeted into poverty. This was an opportunity to take meaningful action to lift families out of poverty, invest in our public services and help businesses so that our economy can grow. The money was there to provide this support. The wholesale price of gas has fallen by 75%, meaning the UK Government has £15 billion it thought it would not have. Yet, our households will see no benefits of this.

This Budget instead prioritised scrapping the pension lifetime allowance which will benefit high earners and investing into nuclear energy – an expensive investment that could otherwise have gone to supporting households and businesses take their energy costs.

Lets be clear: this was a choice. This was a choice not to further support our households and businesses. I think it is obvious where this Tory Government’s priorities lie – and it is not with us in Scotland.

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