The Budget avoided hard cuts but was silent on delivering the growth Britain needs
So, after all the briefing about an austerity Autumn Statement, when it came, it provided large increases in public spending for the next two years.
There is a needless £11bn payment to the Bank of England to pay losses on selling bonds they do not need to sell this year. There is a more welcome honouring of the pension triple lock to give a double figure percentage money rise to pensioners. There is a full inflation increase for those on benefits. There will be substantial extra assistance for all with energy costs after April 2023, on top of the generous scheme for this winter. There will be extra energy related payments next year for pensioners and benefit recipients.
There is more money for the health budget and more money for social care and education. HS2 survives and Sizewell C is added with public investment and subsidy. No sign of the hard cuts we read would be coming.
Pushing more doctors into a higher rate tax will not help recruit and retain the medical talent we need
There’s not enough on the other side of public accounts by way of reductions or improved efficiency and quality. We cannot go on without productivity growth in the overall public sector. We are promised a review of how to encourage more of the hundreds of thousands on benefits into work. It can be a win-win. They will be better off working and the state will pay less out. It also cuts the need for more migrants to come and fill job vacancies, who often need expensive social housing and other extra public service facilities.
There was no mention in the Budget of the need to learn from procurement mistakes and fraud during the Covid spending, nor of the intent to end expensive hotel places for the flow of migrants and asylum seekers. There was no review of massive railway subsidies supporting many near empty trains now the pattern of travel has been transformed by the collapse of five day a week commuting. There was no comment on previous plans to reduce the administrative overhead of government.
The Statement was also silent on growing revenues by growing sectors of the economy and doing more at home. Why do we not spend Defra grant money on helping farmers invest in more domestic food, rather than grants to rewild land so we import more? Why does the government not issue licences urgently to produce more oil and gas from proven North Sea fields to capture the tax revenue here rather than relying on imports?
I appreciate more work is to be done on a spending review. There needs to be a detailed review of where all the cash is going in the much-enlarged NHS budget, to get more of it to reward enough doctors and nurses to cut the backlogs. Pushing more doctors into a higher rate tax will not help recruit and retain the medical talent we need.
John Redwood, Conservative MP for Wokingham.
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