Most people say Britain’s public services aren’t working. Whether it be getting a doctor’s appointment, seeing an NHS dentist, or catching a train. So, it is a “brave” Chancellor who uses a windfall in tax revenues to slash National Insurance (NI) rather than invest it in those hard pressed services.
The government believe the key to growth is to incentivise individuals and firms rather than invest more in schools and Town Halls.
So, can we look to Labour to reverse the NI cut and follow its traditional course of supporting state services? Apparently not. Rachael Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor, will back the Tory tax cuts and has her own plan to achieve that illusive growth.
So, we will have to see whether the voters say to the Chancellor that the Tories have had thirteen years, what took them so long to start turning things around. Or will they take the view that a pandemic and huge energy price shock would knock any government off course; that they made big mistakes in having Johnson and Truss as Prime Minister, but now have some sensible people in charge and should be forgiven?
The Shadow Chancellor says the voters won’t be taken for fools by the Autumn Statement. She is referring to the fact that the freezing of income tax rates for years on end is having a far bigger effect on people’s incomes than the 2% cut in National Insurance will have.
The two questions the government dread. Do you feel better off? Do you think its time for a change? Well, the cheerful Chancellor has done his best. Over the last week he has looked like the cat who got the cream. The Autumn Statement was framed by the fact that inflation is below 5%. That is only because of global forces, but a target has been met.
Business will welcome the £20bn investment in support particularly “full expensing” being made permanent. Speeding up of planning decisions and reform to tackle late payments to small firms are also good.
Even the proposal to take away benefits from people who refuse to engage with back to work programmes will be popular among some voters who point to a million job vacancies.
Labour is still well ahead in the polls and point to poor growth projections, mortgage costs and public services on their knees. But they will be on the alert for a May poll. The Chancellor bringing in the NI cut in January has caused this speculation , but the fact is that no government, behind in the polls, has gone early.
HOW’S IT FOR YOU MR SPEAKER?
I will have to come back to this in more detail, but the Chancellor announced a devolution deal for Lancashire.
Subject to consultation, Lancashire County Council, Blackpool, and Blackburn with Darwen will form a Combined Authority without a mayor. The twelve district councils will get just two places. That includes the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle’s, Chorley Council. He reminded a minister recently to consult the smaller authorities.
My brief conclusion is that the county (and districts in particular) are paying the price for protracted wrangling, and that this is nothing like the deals that Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region got.