A video released by the Treasury on Twitter to promote the Budget by mocking Matt Hancock’s leaked WhatsApp messages has been labelled “contemptuous”, “shameful” and “cringe”.
Jeremy Hunt’s first full Budget as chancellor – following November’s mini budget to repair the damage done by Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss – also drew fire for giving a pension bonus to the country’s richest 1% while ignoring public services.
Hunt told MPs that “inflation has peaked” and the UK looks to have avoided recession before setting out his economic plan.
The key points include keeping the energy price guarantee (aka energy price cap) at £2,500 until July rather than raising it to £3,000. The 5p fuel duty cut – introduced by Rishi Sunak in March 2022 – will be extended until next March. Pre-paid energy meters will no longer be more expensive than direct debit accounts.
Hunt announced the tax surplus will be higher than expected, with revenue set to exceed current spending to leave £39.2 billion by the end of the forecast.
The chancellor confirmed corporation tax will rise from 19% to 25% in April and announced £20 billion investment in carbon capture and storage projects. Nuclear energy will be classed as environmentally sustainable, qualifying it for investment incentives.
A headline measure is reform to the childcare system and a plan to give parents of all children aged 9 months to three years 30 hours per week free childcare, subject to both parents working at least 16 hours per week. However, the scheme will not be fully available until September 2025.
Hunt will be hoping his Budget proves more effective than the Treasury’s social media ploy to promote it by posting a 58-second video on Twitter satirising the Lockdown Files. The files refer to the Telegraph’s articles about the government’s handling of the pandemic, based on former health secretary Hancock’s 100,000 WhatsApp messages sent across government departments during the pandemic.
A lawyer for bereaved families of people who died during the pandemic called it “shameful” and said they would not be joking about leaked WhatsApp messages had their relatives been “sacrificed” to meet “targets”.
Aamer Anwar, a defence and public inquiry solicitor and lawyer to Scottish Covid19 Bereaved Families wrote: “Shameful how you as a Government Dept, should find WhatsApp leaking so funny. It wouldn’t be, if you were one of the Covid Bereaved Families reading how their loved one’s lives were sacrificed to meet targets & so much more.”
Dr Duncan Roberston, policy and strategy academic at Loughborough University, called the video “contemptuous”.
Not so the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) who struck a similarly irreverent tone and manner with their reply to the Treasury.
“Oi!” begins the DSIT tweet. “Who told everyone about our £900m super computer & AI Research Resource?? We specifically didn’t put that in the chat because we knew it was too exciting and one of you would leak it.
It was more “cringe” according to the replies below the DSIT tweet with @Forbes_Carbines posting: “Imagine being a Whitehall social media manager and actually thinking this would be amusing for anyone, ever”.