Right now, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is delivering the Government’s outlines for the budget that will see increased spending on public services by over £150 billion. From better funding for schools to a rise in the National Living Wage, ‘what the budget means for me’ is now a top trending search term for the UK. But the biggest talking point of all? Discounted fizz, of course.
Oh to be British and only care about how cheaply we can get our alcohol. According to Rishi, a shake-up of alcohol duty will mean sparkling wine and draught beer is cheaper – with ‘Budget alcohol duty’ now a major breakout search term on Google.
But beware, it doesn’t mean cheap alcohol across the board, oh no. In what the Chancellor is calling the ‘most radical simplification of alcohol duty’ for over 100 years, the alcohol duty changes will now mean there are six duty rates on alcohol – the stronger the drink, the higher the rate.
So, stronger spirits and wines will become more expensive, but weaker alcohol like beer and rose will be cheaper. Erm, hurrah? We’re not quite sure what kind of win this is for alcohol drinkers, which is the narrative the government are attempting to spin, but for those of us that prefer to value for money, stronger alcohols becoming more expensive in the place of weak ones being cheaper isn’t exactly a cause for celebration.
The only positive we can find is that Rishi is putting an end to the ‘irrational duty premium’ of sparkling wines costing more than still wines of equivalent strength, which means prosecco won’t be any more expensive than similarly strong still wines… woo?
Honestly, this strange attempt to make cheap prosecco the main conversation around the budget does feel sinister. As Labour MP Stella Creasy commented, ‘the chancellor is investing more in prosecco than parents’, with the Women’s Budget Group stating that Rishi was ‘not clear on how much additional money is going towards childcare costs.’
While the Government announced £500 million for ‘family hubs’, the group say this will result in 75 new hubs despite 1000 children’s centres closing between 2009 and 2019.
‘Between 2011 and 2017, the government cut the funding of Sure Start centres by two thirds, that’s £1.2 billion,’ the group tweeted. ‘Their pledge of £500m to support young families in the budget represents a loss of £700 million against what they have cut…Even before Covid, our childcare system was failing children, parents and the economy. This year alone more than 3000 providers have closed, creating more barriers to paid work for women.’
Ultimately, promises of cheap prosecco do not hide the fact that what women are not getting what they are desperately asking for. That’s not just better funding for childcare, but investment in preventing male violence, healthcare and housing to name just a few.