‘Help the rich’: mini-budget sparks fear and anger in PM’s country | Mini budget 2022

OOn the main street in the leafy suburb of Roundhay, where Liz Truss went to school and where her parents still live, there is a sense of frustration, even anger, at the measures announced in Friday’s mini budget .

Catherine Brittain, a childminder, was forced to negotiate with her energy supplier, who drove her bills up from £109 a month to £350. She was able to agree to pay £200 until after Christmas.

She said, “I can’t afford to pay more. I’m worried about the cost of living and at the moment I haven’t passed that on to the parents, but I don’t know how long I can continue.

Worried about the cost of living: Catherine Brittain, childminder at Roundhay, Leeds. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Guardian

She must provide a warm home for the children in her care, as well as meals, and this comes at a cost.

“I am not a charity. I could charge more but I charge what I think is fair.

Brittain worries about the ability of Truss – “a despicable human being” – and his Cabinet to prevent a huge economic crisis and is skeptical of Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s tax reforms.

Kwarteng revealed a surprise income tax cut, scrapping the top rate, which saw high earners pay 45 per cent on any income over £150,000. He also proposed a planned 1% reduction in the basic income tax rate from 2024 to next year.

“They’re just helping the rich and maybe a few crumbs end up falling on us.

“We need a windfall tax, otherwise we will just pass these debts on to our children.”

Last month, Sade Scales’ monthly direct debit for its gas and electricity fell from £65 to £89 overnight. That may not seem like much compared to what some people are paying, but working as a part-time carer in Leeds while caring for a disabled child, any further raise will hit her hard.

“I have a little credit in my energy account, but I had to cut back,” she said. “I think I’m going to need some extra money this winter because it’s just going to get worse.”

She was frustrated that other countries, like France, had been largely insulated from rising energy prices by government policies. In January, the French government capped price increases at state-owned utility EDF at 4%. It also made a one-off payment of €100 (£84) last year to the poorest 5.8 million households.

Scales added: “It’s not our fault. It’s like, why are you picking on us? There has to be a limit point. »

Her friend Sandra Smith, a parent and carer, agreed.

Sade Scales and Sandra Smith
“It’s not our fault,” said Sade Scales, left. She and her friend Santra Smith, right, are carers in Leeds. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Guardian

“A lot of my single friends aren’t doing well. It’s a struggle, they go through month to month. I don’t have a lot of faith that anything is going to get better,” she said.

Smith was also frustrated to hear of plans to force Universal Credit applicants to work longer hours, as a former recipient who knows how hard it is to survive on what’s on offer.

Kwarteng announced claimants working less than 15 hours a week would be penalized if they were not seen as trying to get more work, in a bid to ‘get Britain back to work’.

Smith said, “Universal Credit is the worst thing ever. All of your money is combined instead of being allocated to different things. When I was there I only had £300 left after paying the rent and that didn’t include the bills. It puts people at risk. »

It’s a particularly odd announcement, she said, given unemployment rates are at historic lows and most Universal Credit recipients are working. Moreover, she said, pushing providers to take on more work is already happening.

“I did 15 hours and they were pushing me to do 25. I actually wanted to work more but it was so hard to get childcare. They don’t help you. The whole system is discouraging,” she said.

“You might need an advance to pay something up front and they can just deny you if they don’t feel the reason is satisfactory.”

Scales added: “You can see why people turn to crime. It’s fast money.

Close to Leeds’ beloved Tropical World attraction, an indoor wildlife park and aquarium, Kwarteng’s measures were equally unpopular.

Katie Fenton-Green, a physical education teacher on maternity leave, echoed the sentiments on High Street. “It hasn’t hit us yet but we’re more worried than usual. I’ve been looking for merino wool blankets for the baby.

Physical education teacher Katie Fenton-Green with her daughter, Nell, at Tropical World in Roundhay
Physical education teacher Katie Fenton-Green with her daughter, Nell, at Tropical World in Roundhay. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Guardian

His wife works full-time for ITV, which recently awarded staff a cost-of-living bonus. But she is annoyed by the lack of measures in the budget to tackle energy company profits as people struggle.

“I just don’t think the cost is justified when companies are reporting a profit. It would be understandable if businesses were in trouble, but they are not, and the government seems to just be helping those who are well off.

Even those who expect to benefit from the mini-budget do not understand this.

Sam Smith with his daughter Mabel.
Sam Smith with his daughter Mabel. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Guardian

Sam Smith, an accountant, and his partner Tia McKeon, who works in digital marketing, would be better off under the Chancellor’s plans to scrap an increase in National Insurance payments.

“It kind of seems pointless,” Smith said. “Most people would like to help more where they can and we are not struggling people. It is always the poorest who are most affected, although I don’t know what the other option is.

This article was last modified on 23 September 2022. An earlier version stated that the energy price cap announced by Liz Truss earlier this month ‘only benefits those spending over £2,500 a year’ . The price cap is a limit on the unit cost of electricity and gas, not on overall bills; and the figure of £2,500 a year is the average amount a typical household in Britain will pay under the new cap.