Responding to the Spring Budget today, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has criticised the “skewed” priorities of the Conservatives in pushing major tax breaks for the wealthy and major businesses while refusing to expand energy bills support and hitting families and small businesses with further taxes.
The Chancellor scrapped the £400 discount on bills which most households received this winter and failed to U-turn on plans to slash energy bill support for businesses, leisure centres, schools and hospitals by 85%. The government has also allowed a further hike in duty on spirits including whisky.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Chancellor to cut the Energy Price Guarantee by £500 per household, funded through a proper windfall tax on the record profits of oil and gas companies. This would mean average bills would drop to £1,971 a year, with the support in place until next April. The party is also calling extra targeted support for the least well-off households, including doubling the Warm Homes Discount to £300.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has found that real living standards are expected to fall by a cumulative 5.7% in 2022-23 and 2023-24, the largest fall in living standards since records began in 1956-57.
Mr Carmichael said:
“Today’s Budget has demonstrated the skewed priorities at the top of this Conservative Government. Rather than cutting energy bills or backing small businesses they have given tax breaks to the well off.
“The Chancellor has also missed a trick by not taking the opportunity to cut energy bills for families. Bolstering the Energy Price Guarantee by £500 per household would have dropped average bills back to where they were before the huge price rises of the Autumn.
“Action to bring in some fairness in the relative costs on pre-payment meters is of course welcome but something so basic really should not take a Budget to achieve.
“The Federation of Small Businesses has it right in stating their disappointment at the lack of measures for small businesses. There is a gaping hole where past energy support once was.
“Meanwhile we are seeing a further £70 million tax on Scotch whisky, raising duty once again. Between this, the lack of energy support and the Scottish Government’s bungled deposit return scheme and advertising ban threat, neither government seems to prioritise our flagship export industry.
“The best that can be said is that today is an improvement on the kamikaze Budget of the autumn. Sweeping up the broken china after the bull has already gone through the shop is an improvement, but hardly something to shout about. This government has been a drag on growth and on families’ finances – it is time for them to step aside.”