Rishi Sunak is deliberately not doing enough to help those in need

The largest reduction in living standards since records began – that’s what is about to hit people all across the UK.

That’s not the typical hyperbole of party-political press releases talking.

It’s not the standard political juggling of figures to make the party in power look as bad as possible. It’s the Office of Budget Responsibility – the non-political, non-partisan, non-departmental public body – talking.

Energy and food prices are skyrocketing at previously unforeseen rates, while household incomes are going to drop.

There’s a good chance you were frantically refreshing your household energy supplier’s website at some point last week, trying to put in your latest meter readings.

Choosing a hard Brexit was an act of economic self-sabotage, the repercussions of which we will be felt for years. The pandemic has hurt the economy further.

Russia’s war on Ukraine, and the world’s reliance on Russian oil and gas, has further increased energy and petrol prices, despite them being the highest they have ever been anyway.

While not everything to do with the cost of living crisis lands solely at the doors of 10 and 11 Downing Street, the Tories have made decision after decision that compounds and exacerbates the crisis.

They could have chosen not to make the worst-off even poorer, and they didn’t.

They could have chosen to make the energy support loan into a grant, but they didn’t.

They could have reversed their cuts to Universal Credit, but they didn’t.

What have they done? They’ve tinkered around the edges of their National Insurance increases and made a small cut to fuel duty.

For context, an average household will need to spend about £1000 more in the coming year just to buy exactly what they bought last year.

Energy bills alone are set to increase by more than 50%, and two of the three regions in the UK that will be hit hardest by the increase in energy costs are in Scotland.

It is absolutely no wonder that three-quarters of Scots are saying the Chancellor hasn’t done enough.

He’s tinkering around the edges, while refusing to answer questions about his family’s companies that are still operating, and making profit, in Russia.

He’s tinkering around the edges, while laughably pretending to know the price of a loaf of bread on the morning news.

He’s deliberately not doing enough, while the Resolution Foundation is reporting that the number of people in the UK living in absolute poverty will increase by around 1.3 million in the next year.

He’s tinkering around the edges as fines are delivered to government staff for breaking the law over Covid restrictions – 20 fines so far, with more to come.

He’s tinkering around the edges for the poorest families, while delivering £4 billion tax cuts for bankers.

He’s tinkering around the edges while the incomes of the poorest quarter of households are set to fall by 6%.

He’s tinkering around the edges while the British Chamber of Commerce is reporting that 62% of businesses expect to raise their prices in the near future.

The Scottish Government is doing what it can to help. We already spend a small fortune in Scotland, every single year, mitigating the worst of Tory austerity like the bedroom tax.

Now, using the meagre powers over social security that were transferred to Scotland after the 2014 referendum, it will increase the Scottish Child Payment to £25 a week per child.

Stakeholders have welcomed this change, from Poverty Alliance Scotland to the Trussell Trust, to Barnardo’s Scotland.

The Scottish Government has launched a £4 million Home Heating Support Fund and uprated six social security benefits by 6%.

If you ever needed proof that the Tories punish poor people because they choose to, you need only look at the different choices that our Scottish Government made.

The Chancellor’s Budget was a massive, wasted opportunity. He could have decided to make changes that would help people right now.

I only hope he is holding back, so he can cynically do more later for political benefit. It would be a truly disgusting display, but it would be better than leaving people choosing between heating and eating.

The Tories seem to think that more and more people living in abject poverty and misery is perfectly acceptable.

I think they should be ashamed of themselves.