I’ve just returned from my tenth humanitarian mission to Ukraine. My task this time was to get a vehicle, medical aid and equipment to a unit in eastern Ukraine which supports the evacuation of civilian and military casualties from villages near the front line, and to get food and supplies to an orphanage near Lviv. 

Over the last two years I have witnessed Russia’s systematic destruction of cities, towns, villages and critical infrastructure which has left the country’s economy totally dependent on western aid for survival. The post-war reconstruction bill is currently estimated at $500bn over ten years, whilst $39-billion is needed this year alone just to get by. On my return I caught up on the Spring Budget and reflected on the UK’s own economic challenges. For me there is something distasteful about the budget being framed around what it might mean for the coming general election rather than what it means for all of us, but particularly those who daily juggle with paying rent, putting food on the table and heating their homes.

The big budget event seems to have been a 2p cut in National Insurance after a similar cut back in the autumn. For a worker on £35,000 this saves around £450 a year but for higher earners – those on £50,000 and above it’s an additional £1,300 in their pockets. With wages of around 80 per cent of the national average, and continuing rising costs, most workers in Cornwall will be worse off. The Chancellor’s decision to keep tax thresholds on hold until April 2028 provides little relief for the future. Official figures show that economic growth per head of population has shrunk for seven consecutive quarters, the worst performance since records began in 1958. It’s not just that we feel poorer, we are poorer!

 Having a vision is a core skill for any leader and I’m left wondering where that vision is when I look at this budget. There is nothing to address the shocking state of our public services, or the need for more affordable housing, or support for local councils struggling to pay the rising costs of adult and child social care, and homeless support. The Chancellor talks about increasing productivity but apart from an investment in technology for the NHS there is no vision for skills and workforce development, and nothing about how we can support many of the 2.6-million suffering long-term sickness into work. This is not only a government lacking vision but one so short of ideas that it steals those of Labour – the Chancellor presumably hoping that having abolished “non-dom” status the “super rich will stay and spend their money here” after all. Judging by the number of Conservative MPs announcing they are standing down or who are considering joining their former Vice Chair Lee Anderson and the Reform Party, it really is time for Rishi Sunak to call a General Election and let the people decide.

David Pond MBE 

South East Cornwall Labour Party