Budget 1) A Budget for savers

Budget 2014 montage

“Savers were placed at the heart of Britain’s economic recovery after George Osborne announced the biggest overhaul of pensions for a generation. … The centrepiece of the Chancellor’s fifth Budget was the scrapping of rules that force most Britons to use their pension savings to buy an annuity. … The Budget also contained a sharp rise in the amount that can be saved tax-free in an Isa. Savers will be able to put aside £15,000 annually from July. … Mr Osborne said: ‘The message from this Budget is this: you have earned it, you have saved it, and this Government is on your side.'” – Daily Telegraph

  • “George Osborne’s advisers denied the pension reforms, being billed as some of the most important since the 1930s, were aimed at the Ukip-leaning voters. They argued the measures providing greater flexibility on annuities – championed by the Liberal Democrat pensions minister Steve Webb – were really aimed at 40- or 50-year-olds thinking about how to save…” – The Guardian
  • “Campaigner and former Number 10 adviser Ros Altmann said: ‘This is a bombshell move that will change pensions for ever. It will stop hundreds of thousands of people a year being forced to take a terrible pension which they do not understand.’” – Daily Mail
  • “Billions of pounds were wiped off the value of Britain’s life insurers after the Chancellor unveiled ‘game-changing’ reforms to the UK pensions market.” – The Independent

And lots of comment:

  • MONTGOMERIE purple background“…the next Tory leadership election won’t be a referendum on Mr Osborne’s economic record. It will be another one of those choices about whether anyone is better. And there Mr Osborne might not be so flattered by the competition. The best Chancellor we currently have is unlikely ever to move next door.” – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)
  • “At last we will trust people with their own money” – Ros Altmann, The Times (£)
  • “At a stroke, the Chancellor has removed one of the greatest iniquities in the financial system.” – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • “In one fell swoop, an obvious injustice is addressed.” – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph
  • “This Budget was a reminder of the fact that the Coalition has worked very well in many respects.” – Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
  • “The Budget showed that, when it wants to, the coalition can still operate as a functioning government.” – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • “Mr Osborne has privately always had his sights set on 10 Downing Street. Yesterday, he took a big step closer to his dream.” – Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun (£)
  • “[Osborne’s] puritanical reverence for earners and savers has the makings of a potent election campaign.” – Janan Ganesh, Financial Times
  • “Mr Osborne knows that his fate is not in his hands. That helps to explain why the meat of yesterday’s Budget was microeconomic – with its focus on ‘doers and savers’ rather than public spending, borrowing and tax.” – Stephanie Flanders, Financial Times
  • Steve Richards“Even Mr Osborne’s pensions’ reforms announced today do little to address the most-fundamental challenge facing the next government: How to meet the costly demands of a growing elderly population that is living longer?” – Steve Richards, The Independent
  • “There is no discernible impact of George Osborne’s ‘saving revolution’ on the OBR’s estimates of people’s behaviour. The forecast for the household savings rate is lower than estimated in December.” – Ben Chu, The Independent
  • “Osborne knows about the struggles of today’s young to find decently paid work or own their home. But they vote less – and so matter to him less.” – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian
  • “…although he is in a two-party coalition, this was a message of self-reliance pitched directly at the Tory core vote.” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “The point about a reform like this is that it should be developed carefully, not whipped out of the hat as fait accompli on budget day.” – Guardian editorial
  • “The Chancellor boasted that this was the biggest single reform to the pension system since the 1920s, and he has a point.” – Spectator editorial
  • “Within the narrow parameters set by economic reality and self-imposed fiscal conservatism, Mr Osborne dealt his hand cleverly.” – Times editorial (£)

> Today:

> Yesterday:

Budget 2) Osborne moves the 20p and 40p thresholds

“The Chancellor announced the starting threshold for paying income tax would rise again to £10,500 next year, delivering a £100 tax cut just before the election. … Mr Osborne also confirmed that the threshold at which individuals start paying the higher rate will be raised this year for the first time since the 2010 general election – but by just 1 per cent this year and a further 1 per cent in 2015. … Former Tory Cabinet minister John Redwood welcomed Mr Osborne’s slight raise to the 40p tax threshold but said he should have been much bolder.” – Daily Mail

Budget 3) Assorted tax cuts

Scissors“He slashed 2p from a pint by cutting Beer Duty by 1p to 53.6p and scrapping a 1p inflation rise. … A pint of cider is 1p cheaper now because the inflation-linked rise has been binned. … He froze the levy on spirits, scrapping a 42p rise on a bottle of whisky — a move partly designed to please Scots ahead of the independence referendum. … Tax on a bottle of wine will now go up by 6p instead of 11p, with an escalator on its levy scrapped. … As The Sun revealed yesterday, the Chancellor also halved Bingo Tax — a move that will delight its three million regular players.” – The Sun (£)

“Manufacturing firms could see their energy costs fall by £7billion. … George Osborne said he would cap taxes on carbon emissions, compensate heavy industry for other green taxes and extend tax breaks for investment. … Together, the measures could save a medium-sized manufacturing business £50,000 a year, the Chancellor told MPs yesterday.” – Daily Mail

“The CBI has claimed that the Budget would ‘put the wind in the sails of business’. … Business received a range of tax breaks and measures designed to boost investment amid criticism of Britain’s record on that front. … Now businesses will receive an allowance of up to £500,000 against corporation tax until at least 2015 – double the amount the measure was increased to back in 2012 – in an attempt to tackle the problem.” – The Independent

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – In spirit at least, Halfon is now the author of Osborne’s Budgets

Budget 4) Welfare capped at £119.5 billion

The welfare budget is to be capped at just under £120billion next year and will then rise only in line with inflation to stop the benefits bill spiralling out of control. … As George Osborne seeks to make further benefit cuts a central election dividing line with Labour, MPs will vote next week on a new system to restrict the amount the state can spend on handouts. … Governments will have to respond to any breach of the cap by cutting welfare in what the Chancellor describes as a ‘limit on the nation’s credit card’.” – Daily Mail

  • “A cap on welfare spending that is due to limit benefit claims for the next four years will hit disabled people and the low paid without tackling the underlying causes of Britain’s growing social security bill, according to critics of the Treasury plan.” – The Guardian

Budget 5) £200 million for fixing potholes, and similar for science and apprenticeships

Pothole“Motorists are to benefit from a £200 million fund to end the curse of potholes which has worsened in the wake of the severe winter’s torrential rain and floods. … Councils will be able to apply for cash to fund road repairs and fill in the holes. … But while motoring groups and councils welcomed the extra cash, they said it wouldn’t go far enough and was itself likely to disappear just as quickly down a hole.” – Daily Mail

“Delivering his Budget speech, the chancellor said £106m would be made available for postgraduate training centres; £74m to support innovation in stem cells and graphene; and £42m to set up a new Institute for Data Science in honour of Alan Turing, the cryptanalyst and second world war codebreaker.” – Financial Times

“The Budget announcement includes £20m to develop more challenging postgraduate apprenticeships in subjects such as engineering, accounting and technology. Another £170m will be spent on grants for small businesses wanting to take on 16- to 24-year-old apprentices, with the aim of supporting 100,000 more on-the-job trainees over the next two years.” – Financial Times

Budget 6) For the first time in 35 years, an employment rate higher than America’s

“Last year 1,000 people a day stopped claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, with the number of claimants falling at its fastest rate for 16 years. … The Chancellor yesterday hailed the ‘staggering’ fall of 24 per cent, or 363,200, in 12 months. … He also bragged that for the first time in 35 years, our employment rate is higher than America’s.” – Daily Mail

Budget 7) And just when it was all going so well…

SHAPPS Grant favourite“The Conservatives were under fire last night over a ‘condescending’ pitch for the working class vote – after launching an Internet advert which highlighted Budget cuts to beer and bingo duty. … Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps took to Twitter last night to launch an advert devised by Tory HQ to highlight Budget measures supposedly aimed at ‘hardworking people’. … The advert – which was immediately dubbed a ‘PR disaster’ – read: ‘Bingo! Cutting the bingo tax and beer duty to help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy.’” – Daily Mail

  • “Unfortunately for the Tories the economic upturn of recent months has changed the political landscape less than might have been expected. It has lifted the party’s spirits but has evidently done little to improve its standing.” – Anthony King, Financial Times

Budget 8) The devils in the OBR’s forecasts

“Growth is up, unemployment is down and inflation is back at target, but the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts hint at troubling undercurrents. … Instead of ‘rebalancing’ and ‘deleveraging’ in the wake of the crisis, the OBR envisages an economy in five years’ time that remains a feeble exporter and where households are almost as indebted as they were in 2008 when the boom turned to bust.” – Financial Times

  • “A steep drop in the expected tax receipts from North Sea oil and gas fields underlined the ‘precarious’ nature of an independent Scotland’s finances, George Osborne said. … In his last Budget before September’s referendum, the Chancellor told MPs that revenues from oil and gas production were forecast to decline by almost 50 per cent in four years.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “How easily appearances deceive when awkward figures are pushed from central view. The darkest days, far from being left behind, still lie ahead.” – Bill Jamieson, The Scotsman
  • “Even by their own yardsticks, Osborne and David Cameron have failed abysmally. Whether it’s the debt and the deficit, borrowing, growth, or the ‘rebalancing’ of the economy away from finance, personal credit and the south-east, the pair have not even come close to meeting their own targets. This is a ‘long-term plan’ that has already flopped.” – Seumas Milne, The Guardian
  • “The real gist of Osborne’s speech was that Britain remains in deep trouble” – Larry Elliott, The Guardian
  • “To raise living standards we must increase productivity” – Hamish McRae, The Independent
  • “…the medium-term prospects remain far from certain and, with structural problems still unresolved, austerity is far from over.” – Independent editorial

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Your at-a-glance guide to the Budget’s economic and fiscal forecasts

Budget 9) Did Miliband flop because of Twitter?

Miliband coffee“Ed Miliband’s Budget response flopped yesterday because he  had based it on misleading  predictions on Twitter, according to Ed Balls. … The Shadow Chancellor said Labour’s leader had to tear up large sections of his speech when rumours of what George Osborne would announce in Parliament proved false. … He said Mr Miliband hastily inserted jibes about Education Secretary Michael Gove’s attack on Etonian influence in Downing Street.” – Daily Mail

  • “Mr Miliband’s Budget response, almost entirely free of financial content, was the speech of a chef trying to make an omelette without eggs. It was a chopped, half-fried, gabbled nothingness, little more than a smear of slogans. Dreadful.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • “Osborne boasted in the Budget of the return to growth . . . yet Labour’s poll lead remains” – Rafael Behr, New Statesman
  • “In the run-up to polling day, the bigger challenge is for Ed Miliband, the opposition leader, and Ed Balls, his shadow chancellor. They need to explain why the public should trust them to manage the economy any better.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “Under normal circumstances the contrast between Osborne’s confident optimism and Miliband’s shrill abuse might have sealed the next election. … It might even have taken Osborne a step closer to replacing David Cameron one day in No10. … Thanks to UKIP’s rise, all bets are off.” – Sun editorial (£)

> Yesterday:

Cameron pushes for Russia to be expelled from the G8

“David Cameron will today call on European leaders to consider booting Russia out of the G8 over the Ukraine crisis. … It comes after masked Russian troops stormed Ukraine’s naval base in Crimea’s Black Sea port of Sevastopol yesterday. … Ahead of a two-day EU summit in Brussels, the PM yesterday said Europe needed to send a “clear warning” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had gone too far — including possibly kicking Russia out of the G8 group of powerful nations.” – The Sun (£)

  • “The British government is pushing EU leaders to back a new energy security plan to wean Europe off Russian energy over the next 25 years by ramping up imports from new sources, including shale gas from the US and natural gas from Iraq.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “Blame the West for its meddling in Ukraine” – Jenni Russell, The Times (£)

The papers report on Doyle-Price’s latest post for ConHome

DOYLE-PRICE Jackie“A Conservative backbencher has delivered a stinging critique of her party for being in thrall to a ‘metropolitan elite’ and rowing over Boris Johnson’s prospects as if leadership is a ‘bauble to be passed around the old boys’ network’. … Jackie Doyle-Price, MP for the marginal seat of Thurrock, said her party would continue to be seen as out of touch if it kept obsessing over the London mayor’s ambitions rather than addressing issues such as the cost of food, petrol and holidays.” – The Guardian

> Yesterday: Jackie Doyle-Price MP on Comment – Enough! Stop this chatter and distraction about Boris – who appeals only to the metropolitan elite

Tebbit attacks the Coalition’s childcare policy – and the Coalition itself

“Norman Tebbit, the former Conservative Party Chairman, has attacked the coalition’s flagship child care policy and claimed each child should have either a mother or father at home to raise them. … Having more stay-at-home parents would reduce the cost to the taxpayer of coping with family break-ups and ‘subsidising’ families with two working parents, he said. … Lord Tebbit added that the coalition is ‘past its sell-by date’ and should not continue beyond the general election.” – Daily Telegraph

Rob Wilson leads criticism of Benn honour

“The body of Tony Benn will rest overnight in Parliament’s chapel before his funeral – an honour only previously given to Baroness Thatcher. … Tory MP Rob Wilson, an aide to the Chancellor, said: ‘This is an error of judgment from the Speaker. Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s first female prime minister, she came from an  ordinary background to hold that office and dominate British politics for over a decade.  … By contrast, Tony Benn was the son of a hereditary peer whose politics and views were not just rejected by the public but by his own party over two decades before he left Parliament.’” – Daily Mail

  • “We have to tell the truth about Tony Benn now. Who will hear it later?” – Matthew Parris, The Spectator

Ann Clwyd wants an investigation into the NHS hospital where her husband died

NHS“A Labour MP has called for an investigation into the Cardiff hospital where her husband was left to die ‘like a battery hen’ as it faces new allegations of neglect and malpractice. … Ann Clwyd, who warned this week of a crisis in the Welsh NHS, said that the Principality risked its own version of the Mid Staffordshire scandal.” – The Times (£)

News in brief

  • MPs travelling around the world at the taxpayers’ expense – The Times (£)
  • Australian Prime Minister announces discovery of possible MH370 debris – Daily Mail
  • NHS workers caught awarding five-star ratings to their own hospitals – Daily Mail
  • Israel warned against being dragged into the Syria conflict – The Guardian
  • Craig Oliver splits from his wife – Daily Telegraph
  • Dame Vera Lynn to release a new album – Daily Telegraph

And finally 1) The ministers caught napping in the Budget

Zs“Two Cabinet ministers have appeared to sleep through part of the Budget. … Eric Pickles, the Communities secretary and Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, were accused of dozing during Chancellor George Osborne’s speech in the Commons.” – Daily Telegraph

And finally 2) Tories eat meat

“Your choice of a steak or a salad could give away your political views. … People on the right eat more meat than their left-wing friends and colleagues, a study found. … And it’s not just that they like meat more. … According to the researchers, it is because of their belief in the importance of upholding traditions.” – Daily Mail