THE BLOG

Budget 2015 Does Not Deliver a Caring Britain

08/07/2015 16:20 BST | Updated 08/07/2016 10:59 BST

The first Conservative Budget in 18 years was never going to deliver what the Green Party wanted to see. It wasn't looking likely in the run-up to this afternoon that George Osborne would suddenly change his deeply ingrained ideological stance on austerity, suddenly embrace the urgent need to tackle climate change, or acknowledge the importance of rebalancing our economy away from our fraud-ridden, risk-taking financial sector.

He did deliver a surprise announcement about making the minimum wage a living wage - in theory at least. For the Green Party this was encouraging, to see the Tory Party "stealing" a policy we've been advocating for more than a decade. Although when we came to the detail - not for the under 25s, not until next year, just £7.20 when the current living wage is £7.85 - it became clear that this isn't a living wage. But still a principle has been laid out that can now be fought for with renewed vigour.

But beyond this step in the right direction, this was a Budget that failed Britain. In his short-sighted tax cuts for polluting vehicles, Osborne thinks he is cutting families' transport costs. Yet he failed to pledge any investment in our creaking public transport network, in spite of the growing demand for train services and the falling number of young people learning to drive. We must build a transport system fit for the future, which reduces pollution and helps tackle climate change while providing a convenient and affordable way of getting around for all.

Such policies are endemic in a government that merrily sacrifices the poor in an economically illiterate attempt to "get the economy going" or "bring down the deficit". I'd like to see George Osborne explain to the faces of the people whose lives he has just made more difficult why it is worth it for his "long-term economic plan".

He should face the students who contemplate an ever greater weight of debt if they choose to access higher education.

He should face the children who will be pushed into poverty simply because they have more than one sibling.

He should face the tenants being forced to endure the crippling rents of the private sector and the young people who can see only homelessness in their future.

But instead the government is changing the way child poverty is measured and scrapping their requirement to reduce it, guaranteeing that it won't have to face up to the impact of its cruel policies.

If the government is serious about "making work pay" and helping "hardworking people", today was its opportunity to take a different direction.

The Green Party is proud of Britain's welfare state, and we want to see it become a strong safety net for those who need it.

With policies to make the minimum wage a genuine living wage for workers of all ages, to scrap student loans and reintroduce maintenance grants, restore the link between benefits and prices, build more council homes and introduce rent controls for private tenants, we would create a caring Britain. And we would be able to face the most disadvantaged people in society and give them the hope and security they need.

Today George Osborne squandered a huge opportunity. He could have learned the lessons that led to the economic crisis, started to build a fair and sustainable economy and given Britain the tools it needs to help in the fight against climate change.

Instead his backwards priorities led him to sacrifice the poor and the planet in the name of a "long-term economic plan" that is failing to secure our future.

Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party