George Osborne delivered his final Budget this parliament. Photo: Getty
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What was announced in the Budget 2015?

George Osborne announced his final Budget of this parliament. What was in it?

Read the New Statesman team's analysis of the Chancellor's last Budget before the election:
 

 

And here's what George Osborne announced:
 

ISA and a slice

New fully flexible ISAs, giving you complete freedom to take money out, and put it back in later in the year, without losing any tax-free entitlement.

A Help to Buy ISA: for every £200 first-time buyers save for their deposit, the government will top it up with £50 more.

 

Personal savings allowance

A move coming in next April for the first £1,000 of interest earned on savings to be tax-free – it would apparently take 95 per cent of taxpayers out of savings tax altogether.

 

Income tax allowance rise

The income tax threshold will go up to £10,800 in 2016 and then to £11,000 in 2017.

The threshold at which people start paying the top rate of tax will rise above inflation to £43,300 by 2017/18. This is the first time in seven years this hasn’t just risen with inflation.

 

The road back from Wigan Pier

George Osborne, clearly trying to rebuff Labour’s attack that Tory cuts would take us back to Thirties spending levels, changed his tune. He announced that the public spending squeeze projected in his Autumn Statement last year will end a year early.

This would see national income as a percentage of GDP reach the same level as 2000, rather than the Thirties; Osborne’s target for a surplus has gone down from £23bn by 2020 to £5-7bn.

 

Give and take for pensioners

The government is to reduce from £1.25m to £1m the lifetime pension allowance that tax relief can be claimed on.

Pensioners will be allowed their annuities, without having to pay punitive tax charges of at least 55 per cent.

Allow police and firefighter widows to remarry without facing a pension penalty.

 

Google tax

Osborne claimed that all the new measures against tax avoidance and evasion will raise £3.1bn over the forecast period. He also announced a review into deeds of variation as an inheritance tax loophole.

 

Reducing national debt

The Chancellor announced new OBR statistics suggesting that national debt as a proportion of GDP is falling this year, a year earlier than predicted.

He said the “central judgement of this Budget” is that resources from the bank sales, lower interest payments, and lower welfare bills will be used to pay down the national debt.

 

Growth is up

The Chancellor announced that the OBR has revised up its forecast for GDP growth this year, from 2.4 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

 

Energy expenditure

Cuts in taxes on the North Sea oil industry, which amount to £1.3bn.

“Giving more power to Wales”: the government is working on a Cardiff city deal and opening negotiations on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon subsidy levels.

 

Student support

Additional financial support, following Autumn Statement announcement for postgraduates, for PhDs and research-based Masters degrees. Loans up to £25,000 will be available for them.

 

Confirming Lib Dem mental health reforms

Funding for a major expansion of mental health services for children and those suffering from maternal mental illness.

Devolution

100 per cent business rate growth to be kept for Manchester Combined, Cambridge and surrounding councils. Other councils are welcome to approach the Treasury to secure a similar deal.

 

Out with the tax returns

Online tax accounts will be launched, ending the use of paper tax returns.

 

A new pound

A 12-sided pound coin is unveiled, to avoid counterfeit. It has a prominent thistle on it.

 

Trumpeting creative funding

New tax credit for orchestras.

More generous TV and film tax credits.

Expansion of support for the video games industry.

A new horse race betting right to support British racing.

A consultation into tax support for local papers.

 

The Internet of Things

Investing in the “information revolution”, connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances.

 

Drinks on me!

Cutting beer duty by 1p.

Cider duty down by 2 per cent.

Scotch whisky and spirits down by 2 per cent.

Wine duty frozen.

 

But don’t drink and drive

Cancelling the fuel duty increase scheduled for September.

 

Infrastructure

A new rail franchise for the southwest, with £7bn of investment in roads and air links.

Expanding broadband vouchers to more cities, committing to a national ambition to 100 megabits per second to nearly all homes.

Confirming first twenty housing zones, and creating eight enterprise zones.

 

Charity fundraiser

Libor fines will contribute a further £75m to charities for the armed services, including a memorial for Afghanistan veterans. There will also be £1m put aside to celebrate the 600th anniversary of Agincourt. £25m will be provided to help the UK’s eldest veterans, including nuclear test veterans.

Charities will be able to claim automatic Gift Aid on the first £8,000 of small donations, up from £5,000.

 

A call to farms

Farmers will be allowed to average out their income over five years for tax purposes.

 

Fixing the roof

Trebling funding for church roof appeals.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.