Budget word search comes up short

8th Mar 2021


Technology makes desk-top research easy. You simply open a document, such as the Treasury Red Book, type ‘ctrl F’ and search for the words you want to find and what’s been written about them. Of course you might miss the context, the big picture, but that’s what expert summarisers are for. For the detail, you do the word search.

Image credit: Creator: Harriet Pavey/ No 10 Downing Str Credit: Harriet Pavey/ No 10 Downing Street

But last week’s Budget 2021 left many a screen blank. Type in the word “heat”, and given heat decarbonisation is classed in ‘the hard to do’ box and you get four mentions. One about red diesel usage; one “Heathrow” and two mentions of the word “theatre”. You are left thinking, where’s the beef?

Still, much better a Chancellor said nothing about a topic than saying something stupid – I’m a great believer in the old adage, “Better to stay quiet and let people think you know nothing than open your mouth and prove it.”

Seriously, there are some big questions out there, such as ‘who is going to pay for decarbonisation and how?’ Given the pain that Budget 2021 will deliver from next year, having suffered economic and personal lockdown in the past 12 months, following on from austerity the decade before, who pays and how is important. I guess no ambitious Chancellor wants to tell people the truth about what’s coming, for fear it stops them getting the top job.

For others, there is no such inhibition. I watched a replay, no VAR needed, of a cringe-worthy session of a Select Committee when MPs asked a variety of witnesses the question of who pays and how. One witness was literally smirking when he was asked how the £10 billion a year for heat decarbonisation was to be paid. That amount of money meant nothing to them and they were rightly taken to task by the politicians.

For this budget, like others before and after, there is always the opportunity cost of acting. What could you do with £10 billion if you didn’t spend it on ‘X’? And for politicians, who face dismissal at least every five years, this is the pressing question.

 Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO

Mike Foster

EUA's Chief Executive


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