The Chancellor spoke—I hope that this was a throwaway phrase—about “little extras”. For me, the Budget is about the little extras that he could have introduced but chose not to. For instance, when announcing the increase to the national living wage, he could have chosen to extend it to the 1.9 million under-25s who are unable to claim it. That would have put more money in their pockets that could be spent on the high street to help the ailing shops that are struggling under this Conservative Government.
The Government could also have chosen to give a little extra help to local authorities, such as my own in Stoke-on-Trent. We have lost on average £653 per person over the past eight years. Compare that with the figure for Cheshire East Council, which is just £120. There is a massive disparity between rural counties and the cities, which need more help. The Government could also have chosen to address the chronic underfunding of our further education system. The deputy principal of Stoke-on-Trent College was outraged at the fact that the Chancellor did not even mention higher or further education in his speech. The funding cap of £4,000 means that the services provided for many of the pupils in my constituency simply cannot continue.
Those little extras pale in comparison with what I think is the most rancid part of this Budget, however. As my hon. Friend Ian Murray pointed out, if the Government had wanted to, they could have decoupled the increase in the personal tax allowance from the threshold for the personal allowance for higher earners. Instead, we have had a piece of parliamentary sleight of hand. This is economic blackmail, and it is downright wrong. It is absolutely wrong that my constituents will benefit by about £10 a month—frankly, that will get wiped out in the next round of council tax increases that will be needed to fill the budgetary black holes left by this Government—while we in this House will vote ourselves a tax cut of about £500 this evening, and people earning more than £90,000 will find themselves almost £1,000 a year better off. That is not economic literacy; it is economic devastation for this country.