Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute: "Basically the coalition's first budget was a reality check, and an indication that Britain is on the way back from the madness of the Brown years. It will be a slow haul, but this was a positive start."
BIG CUTS IN SPENDING…
Matt Sinclair of The TaxPayers' Alliance: "There is plenty of very good news in the Budget. A two year public sector pay freeze, the abolition of the Child Trust Fund and cuts in welfare spending are all longstanding TPA recommendations that will be absolutely key to getting the public finances under control. As a result of all the measures proposed, annual spending will be £31.9 billion lower than planned by 2014-15."
…BUT NOT IN BRITAIN'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE EU
Open Europe: "While today's emergency budget in the UK provided many talking points for the media at large – it also provided new information for those with an interest in the UK’s ever-increasing contribution to the European budget *(courtesy of one T.Blair). Hopefully this graph should illustrate how sharply our contributions climbed last year, and will continue climbing until 2014/15 when the contribution will hit an estimated £10.3 billion."
…WITH PAIN SHARED FAIRLY
Neil O'Brien of Policy Exchange: "As a share of their income, the richest 10 per cent are contributing twice as much as the poorer half of the population towards fixing the debt crisis. The richest tenth will be about £1,600 a year worse off, while the poorest tenth will be less than £200 worse off."
ALTHOUGH VAT HIKE WAS UNFAIR
Matthew Sinclair of The TaxPayers' Alliance: "Voters might be left wondering why they should bother paying attention during elections if campaign rhetoric bears so little relation to reality on such a big issue. The increase in VAT from 17.5 to 20 per cent means that instead of the higher income tax threshold being a welcome break for millions of families on low to middle incomes, it is just inadequate compensation for their increased VAT burden."
BUT WHERE IS THE REFORM OF PUBLIC SERVICES?
Andrew Haldenby of Reform: "Two weeks ago, when launching the Spending Review, George Osborne called for a once-in-a-lifetime debate about the shape of government in the UK. He implied that there is a right and a wrong way to cut the deficit. It would be right to cut spending by addressing the structural causes of the deficit – i.e. public sector inefficiency and the UK's unwillingness to cut its pensions and health entitlements. It would be wrong to leave the shape of public services and welfare unchanged, but limit their costs temporarily – “salami slice” – with public sector pay freezes for instance. Today George Osborne opted for the slice: a two year freeze in public sector pay (rather than linking pay with performance), a three year freeze in child benefit (rather than withdrawing it from middle and high earners), a slightly lower rate of increase of benefits and a slightly lower rate of increase of tax thresholds. The general sense was that his ambitions for government were similar to that of the last administration."
AND WHERE IS THE ENVIRONMENTALISM?
Global Warming Policy Forum: "Chancellor George Osborne has today left low carbon businesses disappointed with arguably the least green budget address in recent memory. The low carbon economy and the need to cut carbon emissions barely received a mention as the chancellor's first budget address focused almost exclusively on the spending cuts and tax rises required to tackle the UK's budget deficit. There were a few bright spots for green businesses as the chancellor confirmed that the coalition government would "bring forward" plans for a green investment bank, although he provided no further detail on how such a bank would operate. He also said that the Treasury would "explore" proposals to replace Air Passenger Duty with a per plane levy that the Chancellor said would help to cut carbon emissions. However, a report on the proposal will not be delivered until the autumn, despite the reform being included in both the Conservative and Lib Dem manifestos."
…AND A WELCOME FOR THE END OF REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES
Matthew Elliott on The TaxPayers' Alliance: "A quick scan through the document this afternoon for information on the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) threw up something worthwhile: they are to be abolished through the Public Bodies Bill, for which a White Paper will be produced later this year. Of course, we will be keeping a close eye on it to ensure that this Budget promise is not reneged on or fudged in any way."