It is probably the toughest political challenge since the Second World War. To earn our respect this summarises what he should say, but I fear won’t because he and Boris Johnson are still chucking billions around:
This is a make do and mend Budget. I cannot fill the barrel with a dry tap.
The Covid pandemic has left a budget deficit exceeding £300bn and the national debt is now £2.2 trillion (thousand billion) and rising.
Yet the demands for more spending seem endless.
I only wish I could offer tax cuts while investing in our hard-pressed public services, promoting enterprise and genuine effort, spreading wealth and opportunity more widely across the country, securing our defences in a dangerous world and helping to clean up the planet.
But financial reality – and responsibility – require me steadily to reduce the deficit and borrowing. As a nation, we are exposed in crises when we are spending more than is coming into the Treasury.
The one bright spot is that the economy is recovering well from the pandemic and I want to encourage it responsibly wherever I can.
The quicker it revives the sooner we shall be able to return to the Government’s fundamental values: low taxes, small government and balanced budgets.
The journey will be slower the more vested interests demand for themselves and neglect the crucial need to raise productivity.
In short, we all have a part to play in securing our future.
If we all show the dedication to the job that so many people in public and private services displayed during the pandemic, we shall make it to those sunny uplands that beckon.
I am acutely aware that the process of recovery – and the adjustments involved – are increasing the cost of living. All this comes on top of tax rises already announced for next year.
This underlines the absolute need to get the economy back on an even keel.
That is what I am resolved to do. I cannot offer an easy immediate future.
But I am sure that if we get it right from today we shall see a lower-taxed, more efficient, more competitive and wealthier Britain.
I have already asked every Government department to identify at least five per cent of savings and to increase efficiency.
It follows that I expect every department to cut out waste, especially in procurement of materials and delivery of services.
We simply have to do things better more cheaply. That will require a rigorous look at civil servants working from home, especially where there are complaints about delays that cost people hard-earned money and damage government.
We have already ploughed several billions more into the NHS and the caring system.
I shall be watching very carefully how that money is spent. It is already clear that what we need is a slimmed down and much more efficient management and more doctors and nurses.
Well-paid doctors, however hard pushed, threatening to strike is no way to achieve either greater efficiency or public sympathy.
I have no compunction about appealing to them to think again and to bend their efforts to help make our health care system a model for the world.
Education has much to do to recover lost ground during the pandemic.
We – and the teachers’ unions – have a duty to do all we can to make good our children’s lost learning time.
Let’s face it, our future depends on it.
As for that other taxpayer funded major public service – the forces of law and order – I recognise that the police are faced with an appalling increase in crime.
This requires a fresh examination of priorities to ensure that real villains are removed from the streets.
The reward for a tougher approach will be a more appreciative public.
In short, instead of doling out more cash, I regard the first essential step in improving our national condition is a determined assault on costs and inefficiencies.
Similarly, while sharing the Prime Minister’s concern to combat climate change at next week’s UN conference in Glasgow, I shall want to see evidence of value for money in all expenditure – and not least more security of energy supplies.
I make no apology that this Budget is a call to arms without more hand-outs.
It could not responsibly be other than make do and mend.
I now turn to the details...
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