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Stepped up to the dispatch box under the rigid control of his minder Dominic Cummings Sunak’s Summer Statement splashed the cash in all the wrong places. True to Tory form he reinforced the gaping inequality of Covid support plans; Rishi for the rich with a pittance for the poor will drop millions of the most vulnerable through the Social Safely net to be washed down the ‘Sunak Sluice!’ The vacuous Tory tabloids all featured the crumbs of special deal dining that those relying on food banks to survive cannot afford to contemplate; it was a cruel teaser to tempt the better off into deserted eateries on an alternative day of the week. While this was rightly maligned as ‘deadwood,’ ‘Rich Rishi’ diverted megabucks to a Stamp Duty giveaway. Rich Rishi prioritized largesse to fund the wealthy acquiring a second home while the homeless will be forced back onto the streets; he sponsored a buy-to-rent bonanza to incentivise future slumlords to evict indebted renters who he denied a bailout! The poor are destined for Rishi’s ‘Sunak Sluice!’
In a Tax Research.org Article they describe how, “Rishi Sunak’s business support package fails at almost every single level – not least because it will be illegal for many businesses to even apply for it.” They explain how, “In addition, given the very low capital base of most UK businesses many that now need support will already be facing insolvency. In that case, it is illegal for a company director to take on a loan because they cannot guarantee repayment: it would be fraud for them to take the loan in that situation, and so they cannot do so.” They say, “Sunak has completely failed to take into account the requirement of UK company law when offering this absurd package.” They conclude that, “What he is very obviously seeking to do is keep this business support package off the government’s spending account, and instead is seeking to describe it as a loan, which then means that he can put it on its balance sheet.” But many other MPs shared their concerns over the support package offered by Sunak on Wednesday.
Even some Tory MPs had raised issues that were not covered; Mel Stride praised the plan, but expected more support for SMEs. He described the plan for jobs as “characteristically thoughtful, creative and bold, and I firmly welcome it.” Adding, “He has rightly said that we look to businesses to grow the jobs of the future, yet we know that many hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises will emerge from this crisis saddled with significant amounts of corporate debt, and we will look to them at that moment to be investing in jobs and growth, rather than being concerned about de-leveraging and shoring up their balance sheets.”
Alison Thewliss speaking for the SNP was determined to focus on the poorest, who have once again been ignored, washed down the ‘Sunak Sluice’ Rishi rescues the rich! She said, “A report by the Social Mobility Commission last week warned that UK child poverty is projected to increase to 5.2million by 2022, with Covid19 adding to this problem. Now is the time to strengthen measures to reverse rising child poverty, including a £20 per week increase in the Child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credits. That will help families put food on the table and clothes on children’s backs at a time when many are struggling. These parents are not eating out. Some of these parents are barely eating at all. The Tories must also scrap the callous Two-Child Cap, re-establish Child Poverty Targets, introduce a Real Living Wage for all ages and roll out an emergency basic payment plan to protect families. We want to see investment in a national debt plan to support businesses, families and individuals who have been struggling.”
She also asked, “Will live events also see a VAT reduction in their ticket sales? Gigs and theatres would benefit hugely…” But the SNP offered other incentives, “a 2p cut we are calling for to employers’ national insurance contributions, to protect jobs and reduce the cost of hiring staff.” Thewliss also targeted the unfair pay discrepancy that makes leaving home for independent living so very hard; I lived alone at 17. She said, “Our bright, talented young people are worth so much more than 25 hours a week on minimum wage, rather than a real living wage, with age discrimination baked in. For many of those young people, it will not be so much a kick-start as a kick in the teeth to be told to go to work for so little money. Those aged between 16 and 24 have bills to pay too, and they deserve fair pay for their work. I note that the Chancellor cited the higher band of pay for a 24-year-old, not the £6.45 an hour for younger people or the £4.55 that 16 and 17-year-olds get, an absolute pittance. There should be a real living wage for all.”
Labour MP Margaret Greenwood revealed that, “This week saw the first meeting of the ExcludedUK all-party parliamentary group, an APPG for the excluded, the estimated 3 million people who have missed out on Government support and are facing real financial hardship. I note that the Chancellor has avoided answering questions on this matter so far today.” She had no intention of letting Sunak evade scrutiny, saying, “May I explain to him, the excluded include people on zero-hours contracts, the directors of small companies paying themselves through dividends, and many self-employed people? In my constituency, that is taxi drivers, joiners, beauticians, childminders, care workers, driving instructors, IT consultants, the list goes on. Will the Chancellor look again at providing support to the excluded, so that they, too, can play their part in the recovery?” Sunak’s answer was basically, no!
Chris Stephens SNP, had questions about DWP having seen Job Centre closures in Scotland and all around the country, asking, “He will know that DWP management have asked for 30,000 additional posts, so will the doubling of work coaches be new posts or redeployments? Will the jobcentre closure programme be suspended as a result of his announcements, and will he build an attractive terms and conditions package, given the high staff turnover in the DWP?” Sunak failed to really answer the question. SNP Kenny MacAskill focused on the working poor saying, “As others have mentioned and the Chancellor has acknowledged, the least well-off have suffered disproportionately from the health effects of the virus and must not pay the price of the economic consequences. Will he therefore ensure that the cost of these measures is borne not by the poor and low-paid, but by those with wealth and assets, whether in land and property here or in tax havens abroad, as so many chums in the Cabinet seem to have?”
Labour’s Catherine West wanted proper scrutiny to protect the public interest, she requested, “Given the emergency nature of the statement, will the Chancellor lay out exactly what kind of impact assessment will be made of each of the funding pots, so that we can ensure value for money, look at the impact of each measure on the environment and avoid any corruption or fraud?” Tory Tim Laughton spoke compassionately of the single most vulnerable and least mentioned group when he said, “I welcome the emphasis on young people, but may I ask my right hon. Friend not to forget the youngest people? Some 200,000 babies have been born during lockdown and we have seen a higher incidence of perinatal mental illness, with new parents unable to access extended family support and health visitors. What steps can he take to make sure that this cohort is helped to catch up as well?”
Labour’s Paula Barker raised a controversial issue of Care Homes saying, “The Coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the deep and systematic inadequacies of the current Social Care system and revealed the true extent of the impact that underfunding, structural issues and market instability have had on the system’s ability to respond and protect older people at a time of crisis. Despite the Prime Minister seeking to flagrantly blame our incredible Social Care sector for excess deaths this week, when will the Government get serious about caring for our most vulnerable and fund local authorities properly to bring social care services back in-house?”
Labour’s Kevan Jones wanted to know about the money pledged to local Councils, he stated, “At the beginning of this crisis, the Chancellor said that the Government would do ‘whatever it takes’. Local government finance is in crisis, but it was not mentioned in his statement today. Durham County Council has spent £62 million on its Covid response and it has had £33.2 million from the Government, leaving £28.8 million for the taxpayer locally to pick up. When will he bring forward a comprehensive settlement for local government, which is being called for by all political parties in local government? Without it services will be lost and jobs will also be cut.” Sunak’s reply basically established that central Government would set the regulations and make additional restrictive demands, but Councils would be expected to share the financial burden of the chaos that shambolic Tory policies had created.
Labour/Co-op MP Stella Creasy brought up childcare asking, “One word that has not been mentioned so far is childcare, yet we know that two thirds of women who want to return to work in the next couple of months cannot because they cannot get any, and that 71% of our voluntary sector childcare agencies are already operating at a loss, risking their closing in the coming weeks. So can the Chancellor set out what funding he is providing now to make sure that parents can get back to work?”
Again Labour raised local Council funding, with Sir George Howarth reminding Sunak that, “In response to an earlier question, the Chancellor said that everything in the garden was rosy with local government finance, but he will know that local government faces a catastrophic loss of revenue next year as a result of Covid-19, and that that will have a devastating effect on jobs and services. Knowsley Council alone faces a loss of income of £90 million, and the Liverpool city region faces a loss of £112 million, so will the Chancellor give a firm commitment that Councils will receive full funding for the collection fund shortfalls in 2021 and 2022?”
Labour MP Emma Hardy wanted Sunak to rescue Universities that faced closure, presenting the harsh facts she stated that, “The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that 13 universities could go bust as a result of covid-19. That will not only reduce choice and opportunity, but create unemployment and damage the local economies where they reside.” She asked, “Can the Chancellor state his commitment to build back better and support social mobility by confirming that no university will be allowed to collapse?”
The Green Party’s solitary MP, Caroline Lucas, exposed the reality of the Tory hypocrisy with regard to the climate crisis. She pointed out that, “The Chancellor says he is proud of the Government’s green record, yet the green measures announced today will cut just 0.14% of UK emissions; not only that, but this is a Government who are still committed to spending £27 billion on new roads.” In her brief question slot Lucas couldn’t cram in that new runway at Heathrow, public money wasted on costly Nuclear Power and the environmental damage being cause by the HS2 build taking out irreplaceable ancient woodland. She had a few important pointers for Sunak before the Tories can claim that eco-friendly green mantle, “If he wants to have a green record that he can genuinely be proud of, will he start by cancelling the roads scheme, put the money into public transport and broadband, and introduce a new rule for the UK economy to ensure that all spending and taxation is in line with the Paris agreement and restoring our natural world?”
Labour MP Beth Winter raised an issue that makes Tories squirm, she revealed that, “Richard Murphy, a professor of political economy at City University in London, says that the Government have the potential to raise £174 billion a year if wealth was taxed at the same rate as income. That could cover the cost of the job retention scheme for over 12 months, according to the latest estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility. Does the Chancellor believe that the time is right for a radical overhaul of our taxation system in order to fulfil the Prime Minister’s levelling-up promise, or is the truth that we are not really ‘all in this together’?” We most certainly are not! Labour MP Jessica Morden revealed that, “According to StepChange Debt Charity, 4.5 million people have lost income and accumulated £6 billion of debt in arrears on household bills during the pandemic. Will the Chancellor ensure that economic recovery plans also include a strategy to support people in unavoidable Coronavirus-related financial difficulties?”
Labour MP Darren Jones although focused on a local issue exposed a far wider failing by noting that, “The Chancellor failed today to set out sector-specific help for British manufacturers. In doing so, he is gambling with an important industry and making the UK less competitive compared with countries such as Germany, France and the United States. Perhaps the Chancellor can set out for the House today what it is that he has against British workers making British aeroplanes, British cars and British steel?” One part of ‘take back control’ I wholeheartedly agree with is that we need to bring utilities, core infrastructure and vital resources in house. Our trains should not be nationalized by another EU country, a major utility should not be outsourced to the French and the Chinese should not be building us a Nuclear power station or irreplaceably involved with our broadband access. Yes collaborate with the EU on the Galileo project, that makes sense, and doesn’t compromise our basic security or ability to keep functioning.
Tory Graham Brady pleaded the illogical saying, “The Chancellor spoke about finding a new balance between safety and normality. Is it not time to look at moving away from the guidance that people should work from home if possible towards guidance that they should go to work if it is safe to do so?” Tories still don’t get it, Pandora’s Box was opened and businesses have now discovered that they can cope really well with employees working from home; so why pay for all that costly office space? The new normal is here to stay, but can anything change for the exploited working poor? Labour MP Barbara Keeley joined Dodds in, “urging an end to poverty pay for our Care workers. Today’s interventions in the job market are welcome, but there is still no recognition in pay for the fantastic job done in this crisis by our Care staff. Rather than blaming Care staff, as the Government have done this week, will the Chancellor commit to showing them some parity of esteem with NHS staff and pay them a real living wage of £10 an hour?”
Labour veteran Hilary Benn was the third MP to reinforce the reality of funds the Tories pledged to Councils, “Given that councils have a statutory responsibility to set a balanced annual budget, even the further help announced last week will not be enough for Councils like Leeds and many others. I urge the Chancellor to look again at what the Treasury can do to help fill the remaining gap, which in the case of Leeds is £63 million, because without further assistance the Council will, by law, have to start cutting jobs, and those could include non-statutory services that have been so important in providing support to communities affected by Covid.”
Sunak’s seemingly huge Tory Government stimulus amounts translate to a paltry sum in targeted capital investment expenditure as exposed by Labour MP Liam Byrne, who said “My observation, though, is that of the money he has brought forward, the capital is only about 5% to 6% of the budget that he has earmarked for the next four or five years. What that means in my region is 50p per person per week invested in so-called shovel-ready projects. That is not enough. But crucially, there is a gaping hole in today’s announcement where support for manufacturing should be. We have 330,000 people across the west midlands on furlough in construction, manufacturing and the car business. I believe that the sharp ends to the furlough arrangements will put many people out of work, and there is no subsidy scheme for new cars of the type that has been announced in France and Germany. We want to be the capital of green manufacturing. I fear that, from today, we are now looking at manufacturing meltdown.”
SNP’s Margaret Ferrier said, “The community access to cash scheme recently announced at Cambuslang in my constituency is going to become one of the pilot areas, bringing back much needed payment facilities to our community, which has lost several bank branches. The Chancellor has promised legislation to improve access to cash, which is needed urgently in the light of the economic downturn caused by the Coronavirus. When will he bring forward that vital legislation to protect cash use, support small business and boost the recovery of our high streets.” The elderly and the poorest in society still need access to hard cash! Tory MP Mary Robinson spoke of the need to, “cut down on fraud and corruption. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on whistleblowing, I am very keen that we do that. Will he join me for our webinar tomorrow, when we will be looking at ways that international Governments are tackling this through programmes, so that we can deal with the problem of corruption and fraud?”
I was shocked Labour’s Clive Efford welcomed Rich Rishi’s Stamp Duty cut without suggesting limitations, saying only, “but without an injection of new houses it risks forcing up prices, making it harder, not easier, for first-time buyers to buy homes. This statement should have been taken as an opportunity to inject capital into the housing market, and also into social housing, building houses that people can afford to live in, and creating opportunities for new jobs, new apprenticeships and new skills that people can use in the future, so will the Chancellor go away and have a look at putting some money particularly into building social housing?”
Labour/Co-op MP James Murray highlighted the truly disgraceful conduct of British Airways towards their staff, stating that, “On 25 June, a Treasury direction in relation to the coronavirus job retention scheme made it clear: ‘Integral to the purpose of the CJRS’ is that the grant ‘is used by the employer to continue the employment of employees’. Will the Chancellor therefore confirm that British Airways would be liable to pay back any taxpayers’ money used to furlough staff the company chose to put on notice of redundancy during that furlough period?” This was just one massive loophole that the Tory Government left wide open for their Corporate backers to take advantage of their workers and the taxpayer. Under this Tory Government the wealthy elite are the real benefit scroungers as conditionality is reserved for DWP dealing harshly with the unemployed, the working poor and the disabled.
The SNPs Drew Hendry returned to those excluded from any Government support, saying, “The Chancellor said at the beginning of his statement that “no one will be left without hope”, so what does he say to the hundreds of thousands of businesses and sole traders excluded from support during this pandemic crisis? Many of them are in seasonal businesses facing, in effect, three winters of trading. They cannot afford extra debt, so is now not the time to convert some of the money put aside for loans into grants to support the sector? Big Corporations will receive bail out grants while SMEs are legally obligated not to take on debt they cannot repay. ‘Rich Rishi’ gives the rich a cut in Stamp Duty on that second home, less VAT on costly travel to a luxury vacation and a discount on dinner out. The staggering debt of rent arrears during prolonged unemployment, food bank reliance, homelessness and destitution for those relegated to the ‘Sunak Sluice!’ Investigate the Covert 2019 Rigged Election: we must Get the Tories Out! DO NOT MOVE ON!