Eastwood blasts Kwarteng's mini-budget 'for millionaires, by millionaires'

Colum Eastwood has described Kwasi Kwarteng's mini-budget as one 'designed by millionaires for millionaires' after he announced the abolition of the 45% rate of tax for people earning over £150,000 while saying he will reduce Universal Credit payments for 120,000 if they don't try harder to find work.

Colum Eastwood
Colum Eastwood

The SDLP leader was speaking after the British Chancellor unveiled a number of measures in the House of Commons on Friday morning.

Mr. Eastwood said 'the Tories had once again proved they were more interested in looking after big businesses and the well-off, while leaving people in communities across the North and Britain to fend for themselves'.

The British Chancellor's proposals included the abolition of the additional rate of tax of 45% - paid by the richest people in the United Kingdom - taking effect from April 2023.

A single higher rate of income tax of 40% will take its place.

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The basic rate of income tax cut is also being cut to 19% in April 2023. This, said Mr. Kwarteng, means 31 million people will get on average £170 more per year.

A planned corporation tax rise has also been cancelled. The rate will remain at 19%.

The cap on bankers' bonuses is also being scrapped.

Mr. Kwarteng said Universal Credit claimants who earn less than the equivalent of 15 hours a week at National Living Wage will be required to meet regularly with their Work Coach and take active steps to increase their earnings or face having their benefits reduced.

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"This change is expected to bring an additional 120,000 people into the more intensive work search regime," said Mr. Kwarteng.

Mr. Eastwood slammed the mini-budget as one 'of the rich, for the rich'.

“Rather than attempting to help the millions of people across these islands who are mired in a cost of living emergency, what we got from the British government today was a budget by millionaires for millionaires.

"These plans show just how detached this government is from the desperate situation families are facing. Rather than taking further steps to help people heat their homes and put food on the table this winter we saw a number of measures that will see the rich get richer, while our communities are left in the cold," he said.

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The Foyle MP was scathing of Mr. Kwarteng's decision to slash the cap on bankers' bonuses.

“A decision to remove the cap on bankers’ bonuses at a time when many people’s salaries don’t cover their basic necessities is vulgar in the extreme. This is the Tory party acting as they have always done, making sure that their wealthy backers and big businesses are well looked after, without a thought for the rest of us.

"Trickledown economics doesn’t work, it has never worked and all it will achieve is to widen inequalities at a time when those who are struggling have less than ever before.

“Liz Truss’ government have also demonstrated their total disregard for people in the North who they had promised to help navigate this emergency. Offering the majority of people who rely on oil heating an extra £100, when that wouldn’t even be enough to make an order in most places, shows where we feature in their priorities.

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“What people in the North need is real support and they aren’t getting it from Westminster. The SDLP has produced a plan to get 1000l of home heating oil to everyone who needs it, these are the type of solutions that will get our communities through this winter and it’s time that we saw similar political leadership from this government.”