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Budget 2015: What to expect from George Osborne's last budget of the coalition

George Osborne will say the UK faces a "critical choice" at the election when he delivers his Budget today – but what do we know so far?

Depending on the election result in May, today could be Osborne's final Budget. Unsurprisingly, Twitter is clear of any patronising adverts highlighting the changes to beer and bingo taxes - the things working people enjoy, of course. But the newspapers this morning are swelling with leaks, announcements and juicy rumours. Here's a round up, for anyone (including us) too excited to wait:

Inheritance tax

In plans leaked to the Guardian, Osborne has drawn up blueprints that would allow parents to pass a main property worth up to £1m to their children without paying inheritance tax. This would reduce the inheritance tax bill on properties worth up to £2m by £140,000 with the Treasury concluding that the scheme would “most likely benefit high income and wealthier households.” Quelle surprise.

Power-generating lagoon

Helen Lewis spotted the first shameless reannouncement of today’s Budget: the world’s largest power-generating lagoon, in South Wales. Negotiations will be started on funding a £1bn initiative to produce electricity from turbines in Swansea Bay.

Personal Tax Allowance

Raising the personal allowance to £11,000 – giving 27m people a £200 tax cut. But as Tim Wigmore has reported, raising the tax allowance has already reached its limits for helping the poorest families. Once the personal allowance had reached £10,500, three million people had been taken out of income tax altogether.

Death of the tax return

The Telegraph has splashed this morning on the “death of the annual tax return”. It is expected that Osborne will use the Budget to announce a cut in unnecessary HMRC “red tape” Tax returns, the paper reports, “have been long considered an unnecessary burden for millions of people”.

A new shiny coin

This “long-term economic plan” is certainly under way: a new shiny 12-sided (!) pound coin will be unveiled. Featuring the “four symbols” of the UK: a rose, leek, thistle and shamrock. Sorry? The Chancellor announced the plans at the Budget in 2014 to replace the £1 coin because it has been increasingly vulnerable to counterfeit.
 

Photo: Twitter

Postgraduate Loans

Loans of up to £25,000 for PhD students from disadvantaged backgrounds in an attempt to convince more people to take up postgraduate research.

Savings Tax

The Independent believe they’ve found the biggest “rabbit” in today’s Budget: they say the Chancellor will abolish tax on income from savings for millions in a move to woo pensioners and “hard-working” people. In last year's Budget, Osborne announced that that 10 per cent tax on saving for people on low incomes will be abolished next month. This change will help an estimated 1.5m savers, many of them pensioners, according to the Indy.

Welfare

According to reports in the Daily Mail, the Chancellor will be announcing a welfare cap as he sets out more than £12bn in benefit cuts... and guess who will be affected the most? Read on... 

Young people

At the bottom of the list for a reason. No “goodies” or happy “rabbits” for the under-25s it seems. In fact, they are set to lose the right to housing and unemployment benefits if they refuse offers of work, training or education. It seems the controversial Tory grandee, Lord Tebbitt, whose ambition it is to make young unemployed people pull up ragwort for benefits, might be gleeful at the Budget today. 

Ashley Cowburn writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2014. He tweets @ashcowburn

 

 

Photo: Getty
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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