The Budget

Trolling into work and looking forward to the day’s entertainment – the Budget – a phone call shattered my plans. The Press Office asked if I would cover the BBC panels at 11.30 and again at 2.00 on the Budget.

So – arriving at work – I give apologies to Home Affairs team meeting and study for about an hour before going over to Millbank. My co-panellists are Alan Milburn and Michael Gove. David Dimbleby is the master of ceremonies and as they usher Bill Morris out, we are ushered in and miked up. You get very little time to make your points thought the second session was a bit longer.

The key issues for me are that Brown ducked taking action to tackle the ever-growing inequality in our society – which is bad for all of us. (Much more detail in my conference speech of a few weeks ago).

No action either for pensioners, and worse – he took away the £200 rebate they got last year on Council Tax. ‘Scuse my cynicism – but last year’s rebate was just before a General Election. And now it is over, the money is cut! This year fuel costs are rocketing and pensioners on fixed incomes unable to cope with all the rises – including Council Tax – yet the £200 was cut.

Alan Milburn went first – then Michael Gove – and they both were trying to out-green each other. Which really got my goat – because quite frankly they haven’t got much of a genuine green credential to rub together. David Cameron’s green clothes are a bit like the emperor – riding a bike does not make up for voting against things like the climate-change levy or talking out the new climate change private members’ bill every Friday. And Brown’s green bits of the budget are peanuts in terms of what is needed. Welcome the rise in car vehicle license for worst polluting cars – but please – nothing at all on air travel. All the good I (or you) do in a whole year by turning off lights, or computers on standby, using less heat and so on and so on – are all nothing compared to a single air flight!

In the evening I go to what will probably be my last Race Equality Joint Consultative Committee at Haringey Council. (I step down as a councillor on May 4th). I worry about the Council’s commitment to what should be one of the most important forums for Haringey. This committee only meets about twice a year and although they are meant to meet in other forms – the feeling I got was that there was no leadership from the (Labour) Council Leader on this at all.