By the time you read this, we’ll have learned if there are any surprises left in the budget.
It was once a huge political event, shrouded in secrecy. Back in 1947, a throwaway remark cost chancellor Hugh Dalton his job but now Rishi Sunak briefs the contents to Sunday papers.
Any good news is re-announced endlessly.
Parts of the transport plan have been announced more than 60 times but new money is only about £1.5 billion as opposed to the £7 billion the chancellor claims in his press release.
I wouldn’t trust an accountant or social club treasurer who lied about the figures so it does make me wonder about this chancellor.
One widely pre-briefed element is his concern for children, accompanied by lovely photographs of him with the kids.
To be fair, he has a young family and is no doubt a devoted dad but he also has extremely wealthy in-laws which puts him in a very different situation to most young families in my constituency.
He says he’s releasing £80 million to establish 75 family hubs around the country. I support that but doubt 75 will compensate for the 1,000 children’s centres we’ve lost under 11 years of Tory rule.
He also ought to do something about childcare costs. Nurseries are being forced to close because he won’t fund them properly and many childminders can’t make ends meet. Nearly 3,000 childcare providers have closed since January.
The pandemic aside, the real problem is that after 11 years, the chickens are coming home to roost. Neglect of training has caused employment shortages in key areas of our economy.
As the spectre of rising inflation threatens a cost-of-living crisis, we are paying the price of cuts and under investment over a decade, while too much money has been spent on the wrong things.
The chancellor must now decide if he’s prepared to take from those with the broadest shoulders but cuts to the pension triple lock, universal credit and increases in National Insurance suggest he’s already decided who should bear the brunt.
I doubt there are any good surprises left.