Budget 1) Osborne announces new Garden City for Ebbsfleet

Homes For All Big“A new body will kick-start the development of Ebbsfleet, Kent, and create a new town to mirror Welwyn Garden City in 1920. Armed with £200million and new planning powers, the development body will oversee the construction of 15,000 homes on the Thames Estuary…Planning permission for Ebbsfleet was given as far back as 2003, but just 150 homes were built. The Treasury claims the new development body will have planning powers and the ability to borrow from Government.” – The Sun

  • Welcome to the city of tomorrow – Daily Telegraph
  • One garden city won’t grow into a fix for the housing crisis – Daniel Knowles, The Times (£)
  • Backdrop to budget – Chris Giles, Financial Times
  • Britain’s five richest families worth as much as poorest 20 per cent, says Oxfam – The Independent
  • Entrepreneurs are our wealth creators – The Duke of York, Daily Telegraph
  • Osborne: Michael Gove’s Eton remarks were about social mobility – The Guardian
  • Carney aims to modernise Bank – Financial Times
  • The Tories are getting more people off the dole – Leo McKinstry, Daily Express
  • Supermarkets can cure the cost of living crisis – Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail
  • Chancellor’s 5:2 diet appears to be working – Daily Mail

> Today: ToryDiary The lesson of Ebbsfleet is that we need more Garden Cities

Budget 2) More help to Buy

“The extension of Help to Buy for new properties – which had been due to end in 2016 – to 2020 will support the construction of 120,000 additional homes, he said. The move comes despite suggestions that the Help to Buy scheme could be overheating the housing market, with Bank of England governor Mark Carney keeping a ‘close eye’ on the scheme.” – Daily Mail

> Today: Nick Boys Smith on Local Government: How to stop building a second generation of high rise in London

Budget 3) Childcare scheme for working parents (but not non-working ones)

osborne-budget“A childcare tax break worth £1,200 per child to working couples will be unveiled in this week’s Budget – despite claims it discriminates against stay-at-home mothers. The Chancellor will press ahead with the measure – which is good news for large working families – amid warnings that the cost of childcare exceeds the monthly mortgage payment for many families.” – Daily Mail

Budget 4) Carbon price floor freeze

“The chancellor is expected to freeze the “carbon price floor”, which was designed to speed the shift from gas and coal plants to nuclear, wind and solar power. Mr Osborne will say that by halting the expected rise in the levy he is easing the pressure on manufacturers, in particular heavy industry. “It’s right for us to help business with bills after we helped households with bills in December,” said one senior coalition figure.” – Financial Times

> Yesterday: Tony Lodge on Comment – A chance this week for Osborne to start cutting the carbon tax

Budget 5) But the Chancellor’s big message is: there’s little room for tax cuts

Screen shot 2014-03-17 at 07.46.55“Forecasts for a slowing economy from 2015 leave the chancellor little room for largesse in the run-up to next year’s general election. Options for vote-winning tax cuts aimed at the middle class have been limited by the Office for Budget Responsibility’s expectation that the rapid pace of economic growth will not last. Mr Osborne will instead use the meagre funds available to direct the benefits of this year’s upswing at families with more modest incomes by raising the tax-free allowance.” – Financial Times

Osborne denies saying that people enjoy paying the 40p rate, as the Mail and Telegraph continue their campaign for its threshold to be raised

“A Treasury source insisted: ‘George did not say people enjoy paying 40p. He was explaining that even though more people are paying a marginal tax rate of 40 per cent, the important thing is that they are paying less tax overall.’ But two MPs from the Conservatives’ 1922 backbench committee who were present at the meeting in Downing Street last month said the account of the meeting was accurate.” – Daily Mail


Dominic Raab: Budget priorities: Steel the recovery. Help the lowest earners. Ease pressure on higher ones.

“We need to ease the squeeze on middle incomes. Over the long term, income tax should be cut and simplified into two rates at 15 per cent and 35 per cent. The chancellor should start by taking a penny off the basic and higher rates, and raising – or at least indexing to inflation – the higher rate threshold. In addition, scrapping stamp duty on homes up to £500,000 would remove distortions in the housing market, and help those scrimping for a deposit.” – City AM

  • Henry Smith & Raab call on Osborne to overhaul stamp duty – The Times (£)
  • Chancellor babysits so Shadow Chancellor is free to attack his policies on air – The Times (£)

> Today:

 Balls dumps VAT and child benefit pledges

BALLS Ed headshot facing left“The shadow Chancellor confirmed that a £12billion plan at the centre of the opposition’s ‘plan for jobs and growth’ – a reduction in VAT to 17.5 per cent – had been abandoned. And a pledge to restore child benefit to the better-off could also no longer be a ‘priority’. Instead Labour would use the proceeds of new taxes on banks and bankers’ bonuses – which the Conservatives accuse them of spending ten times over on different projects – to fund a ‘jobs guarantee’ for the young unemployed.” – Daily Mail

> Today: Columnist Charlotte Leslie – Why my anti-socialist constituents admired Tony Benn. And what follows from it.

Fox warns that EU elite is fuelling election extremism…

“In a speech in the US tomorrow, Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary, will say that the failures of the European Union have led to a US-style Tea Party movement that will deliver “a seismic shock” to the continent. In the most pessimistic assessment of the EU’s influence by a senior figure, Dr Fox says that France’s National Front, the Freedom Party in the Netherlands and Britain’s Ukip will all make “significant breakthroughs” in the forthcoming European elections.” – The Times (£)

….As Green leads pro EU fightback…

GREEN Damian looking left“Eighteen leading Tories, including several government aides, have written articles for a new report to be published on Monday by the party’s European Mainstream group. In the essays, seen by The Telegraph, the MPs collectively demand that the Conservatives campaign vigorously for Britain to stay in the EU instead of “being marginalised at the fringes” of Europe. Damian Green, the policing minister, will speak at the launch of the paper in London.” – Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Tory backbenchers are involved in the manifesto for next year – but not in the one for a few weeks’ time

Weekly bin collections may be restored by law, says Pickles

“He revealed the Tories are now looking at setting down ‘minimum standards’, making it more difficult for local authorities to offer fortnightly collections. Councils should also be forced to publicise when long-running  contracts with waste firms are up for renewal, giving voters a chance  to demand a return to a weekly service, he said.” – Daily Mail

Davidson pledges tax cuts at Scottish Conservative Conference

Screen shot 2014-03-17 at 08.17.04“In her keynote speech to her party’s conference in Edinburgh yesterday, Ms Davidson told delegates that successive governments have taken too much tax from Scots and claimed that future prosperity will be built on a strong and growing working class – who she described as “everyday grafters”. She promised to ensure “there are more pounds left in the pocket” of Scots as she set out a centre-right agenda for her party at the next Holyrood election in 2016.” – Scotsman

  • Clarke says that independence would marginalise Scotland – The Times (£)
  • Vice-Admiral claims that a Scottish Yes would “force Britain to abandon nuclear weapons” – Daily Telegraph
  • BBC asked to justify Andrew Marr’s remarks on Scotland’s right to join EU – The Guardian
  • Davidson: our future depends on working class – Herald Scotland

Boris Johnson: In this agonising mystery of Flight 370, there is also hope

“I take something positive from the sheer volume of global speculation – because it tells me that our species is still full of hope. We yearn to believe that this story will turn out like Lost, or Flight 714, or Lord of the Flies – and that somewhere, incredibly, we will find those people alive. Even more important, this is one of the first times I can remember when the whole human race has seemed at one in their sympathy and their concern for others. This is a global edition of that staple of local or national news – the unexplained disappearance of much loved people. It has the same plot, the same false leads, the same wild hopes, the same despair.” – Daily Telegraph

Crimea votes to join Russia. America and Europe condemn poll. Russian troops mass on Ukraine’s border. Ukraine sends troops east.

Vladimir Putin“Moscow headed deeper into international isolation on Sunday as Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia in a referendum condemned by the EU and US as illegal. With Russia set to face international sanctions over the referendum as early as Monday, its central bank has told lenders emergency liquidity measures first used in the 2008 financial crisis could be swiftly reactivated if needed, financiers in Moscow said.” – Financial Times (£)

Farage says he is employing wife, but will stop doing so in May

“The Ukip leader said that it would be a “resigning matter” if an MEP were to use European money to pay his wife or mistress if they did no work. The issue has arisen after Mr Farage was forced to vigorously deny allegations that he had an affair with his press officer and employed her using the public purse. The claim was made last week by Nikki Sinclaire, a former Ukip MEP who quit the party in 2010 after a row with Mr Farage.” – The Times (£)

  • UKIP leader says he will quit in 2015 if party fails to win Westminster seats – Guardian

Yorkshire’s railways ‘must be upgraded’ if region is to benefit from HS2

Screen shot 2014-03-17 at 08.26.34“Sir David Higgins, the new chairman of HS2 Ltd, believes major improvements to the rail links between cities such as Leeds, Manchester, Hull, Bradford and Wakefield must be undertaken alongside the £50bn high-speed line to London, if the full benefits of HS2 are to be realised. Sir David was drafted in by Ministers in January to revive the under-fire HS2 project, following his success in delivering the London Olympics in 2012. His first task was to undertake an urgent review of the project, to assess how it might be improved.” – Yorkshire Post

News in Brief

  • Afghanistan: all but one British frontline base pull out – Daily Telegraph
  • The terror suspect stranded without a passport in Pakistan as May revokes his British citizenship – The Independent
  • Nicholson is ‘shocked and saddened by untimely death’ of Lord Ballyedmond – Newsletter
  • Record wait for hospital tests in Wales forces patients to England – The Times (£)
  • Screen shot 2014-03-17 at 08.27.34Madonna morphs into Daenerys Targaryen – The Sun (£)
  • Oil deposits under Tory heartland in southern England may be as rich as the North Sea – Daily Mail
  • New conservation moves could spell the end of salmon fishing as we know it – Wales Online
  • Jenkin raps Ministers over database sale – Press Association
  • Policy Exchange wants Ofsted reform – Financial Times
  • DWP plans to scrap jobs website – The Guardian
  • Mo Farah collapses as he crosses finish line of New York half-marathon – Daily Express
  • Sunshine will stay all week – Daily Mail