Gordon Brown: too little, too late

And I know – I haven’t mentioned the budget – but there is much coverage in the news today. I always find it interesting the day after when we have all had time to read the small print. In short though – nothing to narrow the widening equality gap between rich and poor and little on climate change action – the two great challenges we face. Perhaps that heralds the Brown style of leadership – too little and too late!

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.

The Budget

Mayor’s Question Time is cancelled because the Mayor has lost his voice. I might have thought he was simply dodging the rapier sharpness of my questioning if my ex-husband hadn’t seen him the week before in Cannes at some developers’ junket. (Nice work if you can get it!). Apparently he was pretty sick and ill there – so undoubtedly he is really ill.

This gives me an opportunity to work from home and watch the budget at the same time. Very luckily as it turns out because at midday I get a panic call from the Ham & High asking where my column is. Being an organised sort of person – I am horrified to learn that I was meant to have written one by the deadline of two days earlier. Even the Ham & High said they were worried about me and thought something had happened as I am ultra-reliable.

But no – just a mistake. However – by the now extended deadline of 2pm I have written and sent column to said publication. Whew!

Back to the budget. Brown presents it as all good news, but when the analysts get down to it the doubts come in. And thus it comes to pass that the £200 off council tax for pensioners is for one year only and will disappear in the Council Tax re-banding in September. And free bus travel – we already have that in London. The stamp duty higher threshold means very little here either. So – not sure that it’s much of a deal. Faint breeze in a teacup I would say.