How duplicitous can the Chancellor get? After forcing the BBC to "accept the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for over-75s", Osborne had the gall to say that this "fulfilled the Conservatives` manifesto pledge to maintain pensioner benefits" (You must pay for pensioners` TV licence from now on, BBCi s told,07/07/15). No doubt such economic chicanery will be evident in this week`s "emergency" budget, presumably called this because most of the unfair £12bn of cuts have to be announced now to ensure floating voters forget about them in time for the 2020 election; when making his reductions to tax credits, there will probably be vague suggestions that firms take it upon themselves to raise pay to living wage levels, £9.15 an hour in London, and £7.85 elsewhere. What he will not admit is that these figures are calculated assuming tax credits and housing benefits remain unchanged, and that without them, according to the Resolution Foundation, the London living wage is actually £11.65 an hour.
Despite this, as Sir Christopher Bland wrote, Osborne has somehow acquired "a reputation for taking courageous decisions" (Osborne has silenced debate with accounting worthy of an Enron finance director,07/07/15). It is time this myth was well and truly debunked; it does not take courage to attack the most vulnerable in society, as this budget will almost certainly do, and as he as Chancellor in the last five years has done repeatedly, from cutting benefits for the disabled to introducing the notorious bedroom tax. Courage is required, however, to challenge the financial sector to change their culture of greed, to reduce the country`s growing inequality, and to end the tax avoidance and evasion which costs the country hundreds of billions in lost revenue every year. As Bland says, Osborne lacked the courage to deal with the issue of "free TV licences for the over-75s", and we can expect his budget to be delivered with a similar cowardly display of deceit and subterfuge. There will be rhetoric about workers being allowed to keep more of their earnings, without mentioning that six million do not earn enough to pay any income tax; he will mention the Greek crisis and the deficit, but not the £375bn miraculously found for our banks through quantitative easing, something that makes comparison with Greece totally fallacious.