New budget will ’embed unfairness’ across the UK, says Welsh finance minister
Plans unveiled by the Chancellor to drive economic growth will instead “embed unfairness” across the country, Wales’ finance minister has said.
Kwasi Kwarteng announced his mini-budget in the House of Commons on Friday, revealing he would be scrapping the top rate of income tax and reducing the basic rate to 19p in the pound.
Among a raft of measures, he also confirmed plans to axe the cap on banker bonuses while adding restrictions to the welfare system.
The Welsh Government criticised the plans with Rebecca Evans MS saying the UK Government was “prioritising funding for tax cuts for the rich” instead of helping struggling households.
“Today’s announcements show the UK Government is heading in a deeply worrying direction, with misplaced priorities leading to a regressive statement that will embed unfairness across the United Kingdom,” Ms Evans said.
“Instead of delivering meaningful, targeted support to those who need help the most, the Chancellor is prioritising funding for tax cuts for the rich, unlimited bonuses for bankers, and protecting the profits of big energy companies.
She added: “We could have seen a bold programme of investment in new green energy, tackling rising bills and improving our energy security in the long term to help stop this kind of crisis happening again.
“We were promised a statement that would ensure immediate support would be delivered, but this falls well short of what was needed.”
As a result of the income tax reduction and cuts to stamp duty, the Treasury said the Welsh Government will receive around £70 million of extra funding over the three years covered by the 2021 Spending Review.
The Scottish Government is to receive more than £600 million extra funding over the same period.
The reversal of the national insurance increase proposed under Boris Johnson will save 4.3 million people across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland more than £230 on average next year, the Treasury claimed.
However, shadow secretary of state for Wales Jo Stevens said the Government’s economic plan would fail and amounted to “casino economics”.
Speaking in College Green after Mr Kwarteng’s statement, Ms Stevens said: “This is their seventh growth plan in 12 years, the previous six have failed, this one will fail as well; what they are proposing will not work.
“We are sick of trickle-down economics, it does not work.
“Everybody contributes to the wealth of this country, everybody should be able to share in the return on it, but that’s not what’s happened today. This is about making people who are very wealthy even more wealthy.
“This whole thing is just casino economics, it’s irresponsible and it’s reckless.”
She added: “Some people will see lower taxes, but it’s clear from the reaction of the markets today that they are not convinced by the Chancellor’s plan.”
The value of the pound dipped to a 37-year low as the Chancellor spoke of introducing tens of billions of pounds of tax cuts while increasing borrowing by more than £70 billion to pay for it.
Welsh Liberal Democrats leader Jane Dodds MS said the budget amounted to “gross negligence”.
“The Conservatives are intent on a budget that robs the poor to pay for the mega rich.
“Someone on £200,000 a year will benefit by an extra £3,000 a year meanwhile those on the breadline will continue to struggle.
“It is almost criminal and completely detached from reality.”
Plaid Cymru’s Senedd leader Adam Price tweeted: “Today’s mini budget is further proof (as if we needed any more!) that the fiscal powers to make meaningful change for those struggling must be devolved to Wales.
“Allowing the super-rich to gorge on more excess plays no part in our vision for an independent Wales.”
The plans have also come under fire from some Welsh charities including Citizens Advice Cymru which called them “grotesque”.
Assistant director Luke Young said: “We need to be plain here: a tax cut for the richest while the least well off struggle to make ends meet is grotesque.
“Energy prices are locked in higher than they ever have been. Emergency food and fuel needs are at record levels.
“The people we support have little, and today, gain little.”
However, the Welsh Tories said the Prime Minister was “putting aspiration, opportunity and growth at the heart of the economy” adding that First Minister Mark Drakeford should “take a leaf out of Liz Truss’ book”.
Shadow finance minister Peter Fox MS said: “Today shows that the UK Conservative Government has a comprehensive plan to provide a sharp boost to the economy by putting cash back into people’s pockets.”
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