Jeremy Hunt is like Titanic's captain ordering lifeboats after he's smashed into the iceberg

22 November 2023, 16:31

Jeremy Hunt has been compared to Titanic's captain
Jeremy Hunt has been compared to Titanic's captain. Picture: Alamy

Ignore the headline-grabbing measures, today’s budget will not fix crisis Britain and it did nothing to build the green foundations of our future prosperity, writes Jeevun Sandher, head of economics at the New Economics Foundation.

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We face our worst domestic crisis since 1945. Government chaos has created a once-in-a-lifetime cost-of-of-living crisis, left us with literally crumbling schools & hospitals, and not enough houses to live in.

On top of this, we also urgently need green investment to get to Net Zero, bring down energy bills and create good jobs. There was nothing today to meet either of those challenges.

We have the highest inflation in the G7. Why? Because we have the highest energy bills. Why? Because we have the worst insulated homes and are dependent on natural gas supplied by foreign dictators like Putin.

Read more: Jeremy Hunt was impressive in his Autumn Statement - but there was too much jam tomorrow and the dye is cast

That has led to today's high inflation, which comes at the end of a no-growth decade. Put it all together, and we’ve had the worst fall in wages since Napoleon threatened these shores.

Today’s working families actually saw taxes rise after today’s statement. The National Insurance cut does not make up for Sunak’s freezing of tax thresholds.

Today’s tax cut was worth around £450 but the freezing tax thresholds will cost the average earner over £650.

The Prime Minster could have instead chosen to help British families by giving cash directly to them, funded by a proper windfall tax on the oil and gas giants who have profited from this crisis. He could have invested in home insulation to get energy bills down by about £1,000. He did neither.

Read more: Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement key points: National Insurance slashed and living wage rises in boost for squeezed Brits

Our public services are in crisis and today’s statement implies even more cuts. That will make us all poorer. We need a healthy, well-educated workforce to get the economy and wages growing. But rather than invest in our public services, today’s budget means more cuts when public services are already crumbling.

We desperately need to build more houses and infrastructure. Where I live, in North Leicestershire, we’ve seen rents rise by over 20% since COVID.

We need more of the right kind of housebuilding to get housing costs down. And we need more infrastructure investment too - we receive about three times less transport spending than London. There was nothing in today’s Budget to fix that.

Our future prosperity depends on making the green transition a success. We know that investing in green industries leads to economic success because we can see it in the United States.

They have the highest economic growth of any G7 nation. But we are not investing anywhere near enough in the green transition and there was nothing extra in today’s statement.

Our country is in crisis. We are sinking. A no-growth decade has made us all poorer, we cannot depend on an ambulance coming if we call 999, and the young cannot afford houses to live in.

We needed a serious program of investment to get us out of our crisis and get this country on the right track. Instead, all the Chancellor gave us today was some headline-grabbing measures. The Chancellor is like the Captain who has steered the Titanic into an iceberg, and is now placing an order for lifeboats while the ship is sinking. Far too little, far far too late.