Just one thing: unlock corporate Britain's cash pile

The TUC tells George Osborne what it wants to hear in the 2012 Budget.

The economy is facing a crisis of low consumer and business confidence.

People are not spending because too many of them have lost their jobs or have seen their wages cut, partly as a result of the government's self-defeating deficit reduction strategy.

Big companies are hoarding cash, rather than investing, because they fear that a lack of confidence among consumers will mean their goods remain unsold.

Last year's VAT rise, the lack of support for young unemployed people and rumoured plans to cut public sector pay outside London and the South East by abolishing national pay bargaining suggest the Chancellor is not much interested in addressing the biggest squeeze in living standards since 1920s.

So if he does one thing on Wednesday, it should be to boost growth by encouraging larger companies to start spending the £700bn they are sitting on.

Ironically, while big business sits on these massive surpluses, small businesses are finding it harder than ever to access credit.

So what can be done? Ideally, the Chancellor would scrap the disastrous spending cuts and introduce a Plan B for growth. The public sector pay freeze should be scrapped and VAT should be cut to 17.5 per cent. This, along with a major attack on unemployment, would boost demand.

To encourage companies to spend, the Chancellor should rebalance the tax system away from profits and towards investment. Cutting corporation tax won't achieve this but raising capital allowances will.

Long-awaited progress on credit easing will be welcome, but the Chancellor must do more. A state investment bank, as they have in Germany, could provide the finance - particularly for small firms in high-growth industries. Reversing the planned 47 per cent cut in infrastructure spending will also boost growth, although the government should learn the lesson from the failed rail privatisation and keep Britain's roads in public hands.

Much of the pre-budget leakage has revolved around tax breaks for the top 1 per cent and mitigating the impact of previously announced cuts.

Action to unlock corporate Britain's £700bn cash pile would be a welcome surprise come Budget day.

Frances O'Grady is Deputy General Secretary for the Trades Union Congress

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