Laughs, Damp Squibs And Reality Bites

The Chancellor delivered some good jokes on Wednesday but the Budget was full of damp squibs

The Chancellor delivered some good jokes on Wednesday but the Budget was full of damp squibs.

The main news was the downgrading of forecasts for economic growth to 2022. The next few years will be grim and offer no prospect of improved living standards let alone prosperity for the vast majority of families.

And while much of the pre-Budget talk focused on how to improve the lot of younger generations, there was very little on offer that will make a real difference soon for young people.

Abolishing stamp duty will help a few first time buyers who have managed to save enough for a deposit but the measure may well have the unintended consequences predicted by some property experts. If it pushes up house prices as some predict, then getting on the housing ladder will be even harder.

The only other tangible measure for younger people was extending the railcard to those aged up to 30. That is small beer in the grand scheme of things.

Otherwise younger generations will have to wait a long time for the promised investment in infrastructure – including trains! – to arrive, create jobs and improve public transport and services that help change Britain.

Some extra funding in the Budget for the NHS has to be welcomed but it remains to seen whether it is too late to help this winter and too little given the rising demands for care from our ageing population.

Many have complained about the Chancellor’s failure to mention social care in the Budget. But that was not surprising given last week’s announcement that the green paper on reforming care funding has been delayed until ‘summer’ 2018.

That announcement was surely to pre-empt the lack of new funding for care in the Budget, as well as being a smokescreen for the long grass where care has been well and truly kicked. A green paper in 2019 makes it unlikely that any substantive changes in the funding of care for older people will happen before the next general election.

The care sector must learn the lessons. Why did so many organisations warmly welcome last week’s announcement, given the urgent crisis facing older and disabled people needing care?

Now it’s time to re-group. The sector must demonstrate why care needs reforming with substantial extra investment, highlighting the growing problems facing many families. And it must develop an ambitious and bold vision for what could be, a vision that has wide-ranging support.

Older people by and large have been left untouched by the Budget. No help with downsizing but no shift in taxation towards wealth and assets. Pension contributions have not been hit.

All in all, the Budget will make little difference to Britain before the next general election. Life will get tougher for a lot of families and the onus for paying for care and other public services will continue to be shifted onto families.

For those who are wealthy, mainly older people aged over 45, life will continue to be good. Reality bites for everyone else.

Stephen Burke is director of United for All Ages


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