Mr Darling delivered a broadly neutral PBR that makes it difficult to write big headlines but was firmly designed to appeal to traditional Labour voting areas in the North. These voters need an incentive and there are a few things which they can benefit from in this PBR.
There will be pages written about the Chancellor’s attempt to secure fiscal sustainability and the changes to tax and pensions but the smaller, what appear to be less important areas, in the PBR deserve a mention.
The 50 per cent super-tax on bank bonuses will take all the headlines, with a few of us discussing how quickly the bankers will find a way to avoid this tax. But only a very small proportion of people are lucky enough to receive bank bonuses. In contrast, there are parts of the PBR that affect millions of people.
A new high-speed train line linking Manchester, Liverpool and Preston and from London to Scotland will be welcomed by many who have stood on cold platforms.
The homes they may be heading to may become warmer after the introduction of a new boiler scrappage scheme. It is expected that over 125,000 people will be able to replace old boilers that have huge carbon waste. There was no news on any extension of the car scrappage scheme but many other carbon-related mentions to coincide with this week’s Copenhagen meeting.
The Chancellor also mentioned bingo which is one of the UK’s most popular leisure pursuits, last year there were 77.5 million visits to licensed bingo clubs. The industry employs 17,000 people and is widely recognised as a positive force within local communities.
Bingo is taxed far higher than other gambling activities, so the the reduction in bingo tax from 22 per cent to 20 per cent is to be welcomed, especially as it has been shown that when a bingo club is closed down, many people lose their only social activity.
The extension of free school meals and a 2.5 per cent rise from April 2010 in the basic state pension are to be welcomed.
The U-turn by the Chancellor not to increase his previously announced IHT exemption may be annoying for some but do remember that only 3 per cent pay inheritance tax.
Is this PBR a little light on detail? I think so but would the Conservatives have done it any differently? I think not.