Sean Devlin, Jobcentre worker and PCS member

You would be forgiven for thinking the Tories’ March budget was full of so many good things. Everything was going to rise – your pensions, benefits, emergency cost-of-living payments, even corporation tax and income tax for the wealthy.

Both the state pension and Universal Credit were increased by 10.1%. This was based on the CPI measure of inflation in September 2022.

14% inflation

But the government used the lower measure of inflation, rather than using the higher, and more realistic, RPI inflation. At the time, RPI was close to 14%. Even now, RPI price rises have been 11.1% in the year to March 2023 – above the pension and benefit increase.

For those in work aged over 23, the National Living Wage rose 9.6% on 1 April, from £9.50 to £10.42. Again, this too falls shy of the current rate of inflation.

Whether in receipt of benefits, retired or working, working-class people are becoming worse off, despite the grandiose rhetoric from the Tory government that is spending ‘more’ under threat of a generalised revolt by workers.

Average public sector wage rises have not exceeded 5%. In the private sector, its slightly higher – 7%.

But this is distorted by a small number of super-rich people soaking up bigger increases. Chief exec pay at Britain’s 100 richest companies rose 23% in 2022.

Compare this to price rises that the government could have limited. The energy price cap rose by 20% on 1 April to £3,000. The average council tax rise is 5.1%. Average rail fares rose by 5.9% in March, with rises often falling hardest on busy commuter routes. Real wages have kept up with none of these.

To add insult to injury, Tory chancellor Jeremy Hunt has frozen the income tax allowance. This means that workers, who win pay rises through determined strike action, will now pay more tax than they would have.

Hunt and his Tory compatriots have bemoaned the impact on inflation of pay rises. Such parsimony is always selective.


Figures from Unite the Union show that average profits amongst the top 350 UK companies have rocketed by 89% since 2019. The ‘big 3’ supermarkets, the ‘big 4’ agribusinesses and the ‘big 4’ UK energy providers have profits over $100 billion in this period.

On this, there is hardly a whisper from Hunt. There are some rises he’d rather we didn’t pay attention to! That’s why the Socialist Party supports the strike wave, so workers can win fully funded inflation-proof pay rises, as well as pensions and benefits that rise with the cost of living.