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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.


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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The government needs more on airports than just Chris Grayling's hunch

This disastrous plan to expand Heathrow will fail, vows Tom Brake. 

I ought to stop being surprised by Theresa May’s decision making. After all, in her short time as Prime Minister she has made a series of terrible decisions. First, we had Chief Buffoon, Boris Johnson appointed as Foreign Secretary to represent the United Kingdom around the world. Then May, announced full steam ahead with the most extreme version of Brexit, causing mass economic uncertainty before we’ve even begun negotiations with the EU. And now we have the announcement that expansion of Heathrow Airport, in the form of a third runway, will go ahead: a colossally expensive, environmentally disastrous, and ill-advised decision.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, I asked Transport Secretary Chris Grayling why the government is “disregarding widespread hostility and bulldozing through a third runway, which will inflict crippling noise, significant climate change effects, health-damaging air pollution and catastrophic congestion on a million Londoners.” His response was nothing more than “because we don’t believe it’s going to do those things.”

I find this astonishing. It appears that the government is proceeding with a multi-billion pound project with Grayling’s beliefs as evidence. Why does the government believe that a country of our size should focus on one major airport in an already overcrowded South East? Germany has multiple major airports, Spain three, the French, Italians, and Japanese have at least two. And I find it astonishing that the government is paying such little heed to our legal and moral environmental obligations.

One of my first acts as an MP nineteen years ago was to set out the Liberal Democrat opposition to the expansion of Heathrow or any airport in southeast England. The United Kingdom has a huge imbalance between the London and the South East, and the rest of the country. This imbalance is a serious issue which our government must get to work remedying. Unfortunately, the expansion of Heathrow does just the opposite - it further concentrates government spending and private investment on this overcrowded corner of the country.

Transport for London estimates that to make the necessary upgrades to transport links around Heathrow will be £10-£20 billion pounds. Heathrow airport is reportedly willing to pay only £1billion of those costs. Without upgrades to the Tube and rail links, the impact on London’s already clogged roads will be substantial. Any diversion of investment from improving TfL’s wider network to lines serving Heathrow would be catastrophic for the capital. And it will not be welcomed by Londoners who already face a daily ordeal of crowded tubes and traffic-delayed buses. In the unlikely event that the government agrees to fund this shortfall, this would be salt in the wound for the South-West, the North, and other parts of the country already deprived of funding for improved rail and road links.

Increased congestion in the capital will not only raise the collective blood pressure of Londoners, but will have severe detrimental effects on our already dire levels of air pollution. During each of the last ten years, air pollution levels have been breached at multiple sites around Heathrow. While a large proportion of this air pollution is caused by surface transport serving Heathrow, a third more planes arriving and departing adds yet more particulates to the air. Even without expansion, it is imperative that we work out how to clean this toxic air. Barrelling ahead without doing so is irresponsible, doing nothing but harm our planet and shorten the lives of those living in west London.

We need an innovative, forward-looking strategy. We need to make transferring to a train to Cardiff after a flight from Dubai as straightforward and simple as transferring to another flight is now. We need to invest in better rail links so travelling by train to the centre of Glasgow or Edinburgh is quicker than flying. Expanding Heathrow means missing our climate change targets is a certainty; it makes life a misery for those who live around the airport and it diverts precious Government spending from other more worthy projects.

The Prime Minister would be wise to heed her own advice to the 2008 government and “recognise widespread hostility to Heathrow expansion.” The decision to build a third runway at Heathrow is the wrong one and if she refuses to U-turn she will soon discover the true extent of the opposition to these plans.

Tom Brake is the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton & Wallington.