By Harry Fone, grassroots campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Last week, my colleague Scott Simmonds and I embarked on a whistlestop tour of the country to gauge the mood of the public ahead of next week’s Budget and the Spending Review. Covering over 600 miles in three days, we visited high streets in Sheffield, Long Eaton, Weston-super-Mare, Bristol, Newport and Headcorn in Kent.
We interviewed members of the public in each of these locations to ask them what they want to see from the chancellor’s Budget. Here are my top five takeaways:
The cost of living is probably the biggest issue for many taxpayers at the moment. Every single person we spoke to cited this as a major concern. They were deeply worried about the effect it will have on their bank balances. I think it’s fair to say that many felt powerless against the tide of rising inflation, energy bills, fuel and food costs. They want Rishi Sunak to give households a break and reduce their cost of living. Cutting taxes and cutting wasteful public sector spending would be a great place to start.
Business owners are feeling the pinch. In Newport, we spoke to a lady who owned a small boutique in the town centre. Whilst she was grateful for the grants that her business received during covid lockdowns, they “don’t cover anything compared to what a business could take daily or weekly.” She was adamant that high business rates are “killing small businesses”. Business rates are literally a tax for running a business that has premises. You don’t receive any kind of service, such as having the bins emptied, in return. If the government wants to help Britain’s high streets post-covid, cutting business rates would be a good place to start.
The government wastes too much money. Most people were adamant that the government doesn’t spend their money in the best way possible. Overseas aid and funds squandered on ineffective PPE were big areas of contention for the majority of people we spoke to. The Spending Review is the perfect opportunity for Rishi Sunak to launch a ‘war on waste’ and stop billions of pounds going down the drain every year. Brits would thank him for us as one lady elegantly put it, “I would absolutely love to see some of that money diverted to the people that fall through the gaps.”
Britain is supposed to be a rich country but people aren’t seeing the benefits. Another common theme was that for a supposedly rich country, the UK has an awful lot of problems that we don’t seem to be very good at fixing. As one gentleman put it, “... when other countries, poorer countries, are surviving and we’re not - and we’re the sixth richest country in the world apparently…” The government is collecting the most taxation in 70 years, but our public services are still not the world-leading ones they should be. But if Britain wants to become more prosperous, then tax hikes are not the way to go - they will only stifle economic growth.
- Taxes are too high. This view was repeated up and down the country, particularly by younger people who are perhaps trying to get on the housing ladder for the first time where saving every penny counts. As one man put it to us in Bristol, “Maybe if they lowered the taxes, people would have more disposable income and therefore they’d have a better standard of living.” Countries around the world have seen the fastest and most sustained economic growth when taxes are lower. The chancellor needs to remember this - we cannot tax our way into prosperity. Cutting taxes, eradicating wasteful and slashing red tape is the best way to get Britain booming again.