UK budget day and a few more cheers than we might have expected. Welcome extensions to the Future Jobs Fund and training guarantees, support to first time buyers, child benefit and continuing the winter fuel allowances. There is also some indication that the Chancellor has been listening to our calls for cutting waste from central government, by cutting back on management consultants.
The measures on taxation for the very rich are also a step in the left direction, although some way short of the progressive taxation regime we would wish for. Some action on tax avoidance is also welcome and including Belize in the package was a nice bit of politics. However, awaiting international action on financial transactions sounds like a long process.
The big downside is that again it is public services that have to pay the price for the mess neo-liberal economics have got us into. Pay rises below inflation and public spending cuts over the next three to five years at least. It needed a far more radical budget than this to chart a different course, although the modest Barnett consequentials this coming year are welcome.
There are some interesting details in the Red Book on my first skim read. Some detailed work being undertaken on the Calman taxation recommendations and upward revised figures on the tax take if a Scottish Government used the current tax variation powers.
Overall a budget that took some helpful steps in the direction we have been advocating, but not nearly radical enough. I suppose we should just be grateful that it was not George Osborne at the dispatch box. His prescription would send us tumbling back into the recession – and that is the real choice in the coming election.