With Keir Starmer unable to respond to budget statements due to testing positive for Covid, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has taken his place to reply to Rishi Sunak.
Reeves accused the Conservatives of demanding that people “pay more for less”. She stated that this was because of “three simple reasons: economic mismanagement, an unfair tax system, and wasteful spending.
“Each of these problems is down to 11 years of Conservative failure. They shake their heads, but the cuts to our public services have cut them to the bone.
“And while the chancellor and prime minister like to pretend that they’re different, this Budget today will only make things worse.”
She also stated that the minimum wage for over 23 year olds should have been raised to a £10 minimum. Sunak announced a raise to minimum wage, but only up to £9.50 for those over 23, up to £9.18 for 21-22 year olds, £6.83 for 18-20 year olds, and £4.81 for under 18s. She welcomed the cut to the Universal Credit taper, from 63% to 55%, but noted that this was not enough, still leaving UC claimants who are not able to work with a loss of £1000 a year following the cut to Universal Credit that took effect earlier this month.
She accused the government of instead allocating funding to “cronyism and vanity projects”, saying: “We’ve had £37bn for a test and trace system that the spending watchdog says treats taxpayers like an ATM cash machine, a yacht for ministers, a fancy paint job for the prime minister’s plane, and a TV studio for Conservative Party broadcasts which seems to have morphed into the world’s most expensive home cinema.”
She noted that the economy had grown by 1.8% a year on average under Tory government, as opposed to 2.3% in Labour’s hands. She said: “The Conservatives are now the party of high taxation because the Conservatives are the party of low growth.”
The Conservatives’ taxation decisions also came under fire from Reeves, as she targeted the party’s decision to tax lower income people to a disproportionate degree. Reeves said: “The highest sustained tax burden in peace time. And who is going to pay for it? It is not international giants like Amazon, no, the chancellor has found a tax deduction for them.
“It is not property speculators, they already pocketed a stamp duty cut and it is clearly not the banks, even though bankers bonuses are set to reach a record high this year. Instead, the chancellor is loading the burden on working people. A national insurance tax rise on working people, a council tax hike on working people, and no support today for working people with VAT on their gas and electricity bills.”