Don’t be fooled by Rishi Sunak’s conjuring trick

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Paul Marriott/REX/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Paul Marriott/REX/Shutterstock

If this chancellor of the exchequer has a skill, it is his sleight of hand, or ability to disguise a real cut as a supposed benefit or gain (Labour accuses Sunak of ‘smoke and mirrors’ budget due to lack of new money, 24 October).

We learn in the budget that he is to increase the national living wage by 59p an hour. For someone working 35 hours, that amounts to an increase of £20.65 a week, which becomes £16.52 after income tax. For an employee unable to find 35 hours of work, as is frequently the case for those on zero-hours contracts, the gain is proportionately less, say £11.80 for a 20-hour week.

However, given that the majority of employees on the national living wage need to be in receipt of universal credit to subsist, the recent cut of £20 a week more than wipes out this act of apparent generosity by Rishi Sunak.

Even more blatant is the fact that, while the £20 reduction took effect in the first week of October, claimants will have to wait until 1 April, a full six months, before receiving this paltry uplift. One wonders how many people will be taken in, as they have so often been in the past.
Robin Spencer
Reigate, Surrey

• It is completely disgusting that the government is penalising universal credit claimants who are unable to work.

To take away the £20-a-week uplift and then completely ignore the hardship this is causing while at the same time using the budget speech to change the taper for working claimants is a vicious kick in the teeth to claimants who are powerless to improve their situation.

Apparently, it is OK to ignore people like me; I am disabled and unable to work. Those of us who cannot improve our financial situation through work really do not matter to this government. We do not get to benefit from the supposed stronger economy. Why am I not in the least bit surprised?
Carolyn Sutton
Glastonbury, Somerset

• Rightly, your editorial (27 October) states that ex-banker Rishi Sunak has “spent twice as much in tax cuts for bankers” than on Covid “catch-up lessons”, but the question remains whether Labour will cash in on this open goal. With UK banks reporting bumper profit rises in the third quarter (Report, 26 October) – for example HSBC’s profits rising by 74% and Barclays’ almost doubling – obscenely high bonuses will again be paid for what is still regarded as “socially useless” work. Barclays has apparently already revealed that its bonus pool has been increased by 45%, with the payout for its top bankers likely to be more than £1bn for the first half of 2021 alone.

Rachel Reeves’s initial response to the budget was excellent, but now that details have been scrutinised, surely Labour’s leadership team should be able to score much-needed political points by repeatedly reminding families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis about where the Tories’ priorities really lie. All Boris Johnson’s talk of “one-nation” Conservatism was debunked by this budget and Keir Starmer and co should be shouting it from the rooftops.
Bernie Evans

• Why is Rishi Sunak making booze cheaper? I’m puzzled: are unhealthier livers official Tory policy?
Sebastian Monblat
Sutton, London

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