Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Jeremy Hunt’s cure for our economy is a foul medicine – let’s hope it works

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Pray Hunt’s ‘cure’ works

JEREMY Hunt’s remedy for our economy is some of the foulest medicine ever dished up by a Tory Chancellor.

Only time will tell if it does us any good.

Jeremy Hunt is set to put us on the path to the largest tax burden in our history


Jeremy Hunt is set to put us on the path to the largest tax burden in our historyCredit: AFP

But it is, with a few notable exceptions, incredibly hard to swallow.

Let us first be crystal clear why we are where we are.

Our economy has been half-destroyed by Covid — the mind-boggling cost of 18 months of furloughs and lockdowns — then by Russia’s war sending prices and bills into orbit.

We accept that emergency treatment to balance the books was vital.

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We just pray it doesn’t kill the patient.

Consider these staggeringly grim ­forecasts: We are set for the highest tax burden in our history.

We will be in recession for a year with inflation at seven per cent and incomes, shockingly, plummeting to 2013 levels.

Some 3.2million workers will pay income tax for the first time, 2.6million will be dragged into the higher rate and 232,000 more into the top 45p rate.

We fear all that, plus the huge increase in corporation tax, could crush growth and gift investment, jobs and skilled high-fliers to lower-tax competitors.

Mr Hunt himself admitted “high-tax economies damage enterprise”.

Why, then, is Britain alone in hammering households’ spending power in the teeth of a recession?

The Government, incredibly, even plans to hike fuel duty by 23 per cent next March, adding 12p to a litre — a scandalous extra cost for drivers, hauliers and ultimately shoppers.

There is even a needless rise in leasing charges for some White Van Men.

At least the pain has been shared

At least the pain is shared fairly equally, from average earners up to Tesla drivers.

Greedy energy giants face a higher windfall levy.

Only those on benefits or low pay and OAPs get a free pass, with rises in line with inflation.

That’s great news for those surviving on the state pension alone.

It’s an indefensible reward for mortgage-free millionaires when young renters’ lives are getting markedly worse.

Means-testing pensions is long overdue.

Meanwhile state spending will go up next year — with big bungs for the NHS and education — then fall sharply in years to come.

Mr Hunt and Rishi Sunak are acutely sensitive to Labour accusations that they are millionaires governing for the rich — and did their best to neutralise them.

So much so that Labour could have delivered much of this Budget.

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Perhaps that’s why Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves replied not by finding its flaws but by falsely claiming our parlous state was down to 12 years of Tory misrule . . . instead of the ­lockdowns Labour clamoured for with reckless disregard for the cost.

As for her party’s own ideas, the cupboard is bare.

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