Hackney leaders react to the chancellor's 'smoke and mirrors' autumn Budget

ONE EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVING. NO ALTERING OR MANIPULATING. NO USE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his budget to the House of Commons - Credit: PA

Hackney leaders have delivered fierce criticism in response to the chancellor's 2021 autumn Budget and spending review with Hackney MPs calling it "smoke and mirrors" and accusing the government of robbing the poor and giving to the rich. 

The chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced at the House of Commons yesterday afternoon (October 27) that the government's "plan is working". 

He stated: "Today’s Budget delivers a stronger economy for the British people: "Stronger growth, with the UK recovering faster than our major competitors. Stronger public finances, with our debt under control.

"Stronger employment, with fewer people out of work and more people in work. Growth up, jobs up, and debt down."

But Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington Diane Abbott saw the Budget as a missed opportunity to help people struggling with rising bills and to tackle crises in the NHS and in education.

She said: "It continues the long and terrible tradition of Tory chancellors and prime ministers ever since 2010, of robbing people on average and low incomes and giving to the rich. "

The MP criticised the government for breaking a manifesto pledge to keep the state pension triple lock for older people in order to avoid large payouts.

Diane Abbott MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, speaks during the third day of the Labour Par

MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington Diane Abbott - Credit: Empics Entertainment

Most Read

It was announced that a double lock would be put in place temporarily to account for distorted wages affected by the pandemic.  

Mr Sunak spoke of "responsible public finances" and a "stronger economy" at the commons.

But Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, questioned where the government would get all the "extra money" for its ambitious plans.

She said: "It’s another smoke and mirrors Budget.

"Promises of extra money unravel when you look into the details. There is no money for the properly affordable housing that so many families in Hackney need and the school settlement is not enough to make up for past cuts.

“The money given to government departments will have to cover pay rises now that the public sector pay freeze has been lifted – but this has not been funded so schools, the NHS, and local government will have to rob Peter to pay Paul."

Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier. Picture: Stefano Cagnoni

MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch Meg Hillier - Credit: Stefano Cagnoni

She also stated how the changes to universal credit "don't go anywhere near replacing the £20 a week that the government cut last month". 

The changes include increasing work allowances by £500 and cutting the universal credit taper by 8pc. Mr Sunak described the taper as a "hidden tax on work".

His speech emphasised "personal responsibility" and rewarding work. 

Criticism was also levelled at the government by Hackney's mayor Philip Glanville for it "failing to set a climate example for the world to follow". 

The mayor said: "Just days before world leaders come to the UK for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tackle our climate crisis, today’s budget demonstrated again the widening gap between the government's ambition and the financial decisions they make.

“Cutting taxes on domestic flights and freezing fuel duty – two of the biggest green taxes our country has – are the actions of a government living in an alternate reality while our planet’s climate is at breaking point, and encourages further pollution on our roads."

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville - Credit: Hackney Council

The government's strategy to meeting net zero targets, as Mr Sunak pointed out, include investing £30bn into green industries of the future and £107m to support offshore wind. 

The mayor continued: “This was also the chancellor’s chance to help families struggling in fuel poverty with rising bills right now, as well as show leadership ahead of COP26.

"Home energy use produces 267,000 tonnes of carbon in Hackney every year, but we got little investment to tackle fuel poverty and make every home in the borough cosy and carbon neutral."

The mayor was also critical of the government's levelling up agenda, adding that "places like Hackney have some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country". 

"Levelling up the country shouldn't mean levelling down London."

He added that despite Hackney families facing a cost of living crisis the chancellor did not heed calls to reverse the removal of the £20 a week universal credit uplift. 

“That means despite vaunted promises about new ‘family hubs’, the sad reality of 11 years of austerity means we’re having to consult on closing two of our existing children’s centres in Hackney," mayor Glanville stated. 

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter