The Autumn of all Statements
Austerity is the Only Consistency in Sight
The man has no passion, seems emotionless and mono. Whether good news or bad, (nearly always bad), his expression and delivery is the same. Whether at the House of Commons, Dispatch Box or at interview with well-honed reporters. There is never a sense of urgency or a sense of passivity when he speaks, and one does not look forward to any announcements he or his department makes as one is yet to hear anything positive from his lips or those of his junior Ministers. This is the setting as we approached the Autumn Statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. Now any statement in this age of recession is not going to be good but his department have been leaking bits and pieces to the press like a colander trying to hold water. Normal practice but these leaks have been in order to prepare the ground and advance those 2 year old messages that “We are all in this together!” Except if you are a multi-million pound company or a millionaire where avoidance of paying tax, although legal, is completely and utterly immoral and wrong on every level, no matter what the unimaginative Osborne states, whilst these people and companies can avoid tax legally, we are NOT all in this together!!
I acknowledged that Osborne was releasing an extra £160 million for HM Revenue and Customs to do more investigation into tax avoidance, a leak hoping to please the voters that don’t have the funds to avoid paying tax, but it is time these people and these companies were just sent bills and made to pay their duty/tax. And what the hell is this rubbish about Starbucks negotiating with Revenue and Customs how much tax to pay, who the hell thinks this is okay? I don’t get to negotiate my tax; my wife doesn’t negotiate how much tax she pays. If I tried it I would be prosecuted and have assets seized. So, Revenue and Customs, as another company announces £360 million in profit, operating out of the UK, but doesn’t pay a penny in tax. How about nailing these immoral companies to the wall rather than taking more money from those that can’t even afford to heat their homes. This inequality is putrid and the stench is sickening Mr Osborne, so please do something about it.
We know that things aren’t good. Even the Office of National Statistics (ONS), released that the deficit was worse and that there was no way the Government would hit its own deficit reduction targets and economic growth targets – a real double whammy to say the least. In the ONS’ family spending report, is the real truth behind all the political jargon, which was forth coming and got straight to the point with its independent statistics, “Food costs are up 27% since the beginning of the crisis in 2008”, yet pay has made no significant increase. Heating/fuel costs were now averaging an increase of 33 % on 2008. Before the Chancellor said a word the leaks continued, the warning in the message was austerity would continue into 2018 and beyond. Due to weaker growth and lower taxable revenue (after 2 years maybe you could have sorted out the tax dodging fat cats!). Being Chancellor of the Exchequer is like having the trickiest maths problem imaginable, trying to balance the country’s books, in the middle of a recession, so the Autumn Statement was a perfect chance to tell us all what you are doing about it. So is this what we got Mr Osborne?
Osborne took to the Despatch Box with an expressionless look on his face, no emotion at all, not a glimmer (does he practice this look I wonder?), and unfurled 40+ minutes of what was a mini budget in effect rather than an update, which the Autumn Statement should be. As he ploughed through point after point, putting a silver lining on every item rattled off, as well as a clear, “didn’t we do well since we took over two years ago” attitude, it was nothing but positive. Right from the off the Chamber heckled him, as soon as he said “The British economy is healing” everyone on the opposition benches fell about laughing, howling with taunts and gibes, as did many a Liberal Democrat too, I even noted Clegg covered his face at this point. However, Osborne recovered really quickly with the help of the Speaker who dampened off the noise that meant Osborne could not be hear (it would turn out that not hearing he would have been the preferred option, sometimes I hate hindsight), then figures upon figures were rattled off. By the end of his Statement the Economists were analysing, qualifying, quantifying every word and number to reveal the truth behind this image of “Aren’t we doing well.” Then as the calculators keys were glowing red-hot from fevered figures, calculating machines and IPads going into Chernobyl level melt down in the TV studios, Ed Balls (Shadow Chancellor – Labour) took to his Despatch Box.
You could see him take a deep breath ready to assault, there was tension in the Commons, a moment of silence, then Ed made a complete fool of himself, he sounded unsure, hesitant, intimidated, stuttering and mixing up his words, appearing to have no idea as to what he was trying to say. The Speaker rescued him time and time again from the heckles and the cutting taunts of the Conservatives, which served only to make Ed even more anxious, but he never did recovered his normal composure, in reality he was no opposition at all. It was in reality a lost opportunity to fulfil the function and constitutional duty of the Parliamentary Opposition, to hold the Government to account, it was a train wreck of a counter assault and one that Ed will kick himself over for months to come. By the time the shock of Ed’s farce was wearing off, the programme went to the analysis team (all were independent of any political party) to give the ‘real’ truth behind the Chancellor’s statistics, some of which were surprising, or should that be ‘alarming’:
- We were no closer to balancing the Country’s financial books since the Coalition took power;
- Because the borrowing figures were not in the Chancellor’s favour, he had changed the way he calculated such figures to show a reduction year on year of borrowing, this was now the third method he had used to calculate such figures since he took up residence in Number 11 Downing Street;
- The actual amount of debt we were in, the lump sum we owe as a Country, would show no reduction until at least the end of this decade;
- Growth in our economy was back into -0.1% again, this being the 3rd quarter to register no growth at all;
- Cuts would continue, severe austerity would continue way into 2019, adding several years to his original ending of austerity, for which Osborne blamed the slowing China economy, Europe being in recession, Middle East in crisis, etc, excuses we have heard over and over for 2 years, even the old chestnut of it “being Labour’s fault” was thrown around several times;
- As a Country we were borrowing far more than Osborne had forecasted, and it was noted that he just blatantly changed his own targets every time his department look like they or the Country are going to miss them;
- Banks were leading less than ever before, but most businesses already new this;
- But there was some good points too, such as abolishing the planned petrol/diesel price rise in the spring;
- The personal Allowance before paying tax would be raised up by £235 per annum to £9,440;
- Disability and Carers allowances, along with the State Pension, would rise with inflection, but other benefits were effectively diminishing with less than inflation rises capped at 1%;
- But further cuts were announced, which would help pay for the £190 million in extra resources to his own departmental HM Revenue & Customs, to increase the team to chase down tax avoiders;
But overall it was felt that Osborne had not just sent a chill through the financial forecasts for the rest of the decade but effectively thrown it into the deep freezer! However, as I was writing this, to add insult to injury, Star Bucks announces they had agreed to pay in 2013 £10 million in corporation tax and the same amount for 2014. I was apoplectic with rage as it was shameful, and this Government were smirking with Star Bucks, telling the press how well they had done. NO YOU HAVEN’T, it’s appalling and completely unfair, if ever you wanted proof that we are NOT all in this together, this was it, one set of extremely flexible rules for politicians and the big corporations, and another for the ‘normal’ working class who have to do as we are told re tax, with no right to negotiate at all. I was enraged and this is why:
We don’t get to negotiate our tax! Why don’t you try it and phone HM Revenue & Customs and tell them you are paying too much tax and want to negotiate it down to less than 10% of what you owe. Try it and I bet you get fined, prosecuted and even imprisoned, but yet the corporations, that fat cats that fund politics through donations, are doing it as we speak, actually negotiating how much they pay – it’s just bloody wrong on any level!
In 2011/12 Star Bucks made profits of £400 million (ish), which they then shifted out of the Country to show a loss, the same as they have done for over 10 years. But does HMR&C make them pay, HELL NO, they let Star Bucks negotiate down to only pay 2.5% of their predicted earnings for 2013 and 2014, just 2.5%;
That’s right they have negotiated how much they are going to pay in tax before they have even earned their millions. I think this is fab, and my wife and I are going to write to HMR&C and tell them we are only going to pay 2.5% for our incomes for 2013 & 2014 – wow what a fab system we have. I wonder if they will agree?
Well they should be paying 40% like every other small business that can’t afford to dodge tax, so I worked out how much Star Bucks should owe for the last 10 years if their average profit is £300 million per year (this being way lower than reality). Well 40% of £300,000,000 = £120,000,000 per year. Times this by 10 and you get a figure of £1.2 BILLION they owe us! So I say they can stick their £10 million and send them a bill for tax to date of at least £1,200,000,000!
This is why I was so annoyed, it was immoral and they were laughing their socks off at this little island of ours, suckered into accepting £10 million for next year and pay nothing backdated, or was it agreed at Minister level to keep donators to their party happy?. I was a Conservative but no more, as this was Minister sanctioned; this deal had to be sanctioned by at least a junior Minister as they were all crowing about it, ridiculous. The HMR&C Ministers & Senior Civil Servants should be sacked and replaced by people that have courage, have fortitude, won’t be intimidated, won’t be influenced by their powerful corporate entities, standing up to these global companies that are acting like they can do as they want in this Country. Put people in place that will seize their assets, freeze their accounts and take the tax we are owed one way or another, beat the bloody tax out of them if needed. We are not all in this together, the Government insult us when they say this, and it is time it was changed, billions are owed, the amount is so large that on its own it could pay down our debt, without the need for further cuts to the services that support our most vulnerable. It is time for someone with courage of a tiger to take these companies on and truly live up to the phrase that “we are all in this together”, just for once do the right thing!
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