Dan Wootton: Two years of unnecessary lockdowns has taken us to this financial hellscape

I won’t be joining the Dishy Rishi fan club party

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Did Rishi Sunak convince me the Tories have returned to their low tax roots in today’s Spring Budget Statement? Absolutely not.

Was it better than it was at one point projected to be? Yes, I’ll give him that.

The good?

The National Insurance threshold will rise by £3,000.

But the very very bad…

The 1.25% National Insurance hike will still go ahead, meaning anyone earning over £40,000 still pays more tax.

The good?

Fuel duty has been cut by 5p a litre as of three hours ago.

The very very bad…

Corporation tax will still increase by a whopping 6p on the pound next year.

The rabbit out of the hat was finally an actual Tory income tax cut.

But not this year as the cost of living crisis really begins to sting. Not even next year.

Nope, at some point in 2024 – likely just before the next election – and only from 20p to 19p in the pound.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak

Better than nothing, maybe, but hardly enough for me to believe this pledge from the Chancellor:

“Only the Conservatives can be trusted with taxpayers’ money.”

That certainly used to be the case but is that proposition still true after the wilful disregard for spending our money over the past two years?

What about the £8 billion wasted on useless PPE, the £37 billion splurged on a hopeless test and trace system, and the £11 billion written off thanks to Covid fraud? What about the billions more being dumped into the NHS bureaucratic blackhole, despite the fact waiting lists get longer by the day?

What about the fact that many of the lockdown measures imposed two years ago today were never necessary – but effectively bankrupt the country anyway?

In fact, I found it disgraceful that Rishi talked about the two-year lockdown anniversary as if it was something to celebrate today.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his Spring Statement in the House of Commons
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his Spring Statement in the House of Commons

The vast majority of lockdown measures were completely unnecessary – and the shutdown of our economy and lives is exactly why we’ve ended up in this quagmire.

Our tax burden remains at a 70-year high.

And these are the tax increases introduced during Sunak’s regime…

IN BUDGET 2020…

  • Corporation tax increase
  • Reduction in entrepreneurs’ relief for Capital Gains Tax

IN SPENDING ROUND 2020…

  • Council tax measures

IN BUDGET 2021

  • Corporation tax increase
  • Income tax personal allowance freeze
  • Inheritance tax threshold freeze
  • Capital Gains Tax annual exempt allowance freeze
  • VAT registration threshold for business freeze
  • Health and social care levy
  • Dividend tax
  • Freeze in starting rate band for savings tax
  • Freeze in adult ISA subscription limit
  • Income tax basis period reform
  • Council tax measures

IN JANUARY 2022

  • Freeze in student loan repayment threshold

So while some of the rhetoric today was promising, I won’t be joining the Dishy Rishi fan club party, I’m afraid.

The bloke’s PR is excellent.

His presentation is clever – it’s as if Philip Schofield was delivering the budget.

BUT the financial delivery does not match the oratory.

We should never have locked down in the way we did for so long.

The war hasn’t helped matters, but it’s that total shutdown of our economy that has taken us to this financial hellscape today.

Oh, and by the way, that’s why Labour’s pathetic opposition today must be ignored. That party was calling for harder lockdowns and more irresponsible government spending throughout the past two years of Covid.

Perhaps the only saving grace for Rishi is that a Labour government led by Keir Starmer would have done even more damage.

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