Chancellor Alistair Darling delivered a boring, politically loaded Budget that makes it difficult to write big headlines but was firmly intended to ease Labour’s difficult path to the general election.
The easing economic background and a gentle squeeze on the rich will help Labour’s attempt to try to slightly reduce child poverty by raising child tax credit for one and two-year-olds by £4 a week, support the elderly by increasing the winter fuel allowance and to raise the stamp duty threshhold to help first-time homebuyers. If there is a Conservative Government in a month or so, these three Budget announcements will prove difficult to reverse.
As the banks are performing well, Darling promised that all taxpayers’ money will be repaid by the banks alongside the promise of more bank funding for businesses to help the many companies that are still struggling after surviving the longest economic downturn since the Second World War.
The attempt to improve financial exclusion by making the banks offer accounts to those who have previously been left out has an ambitious target of one million more people and will be brought into the banking system within the next five years.
Thank goodness there is still the commitment to building a high-speed train network, with £100m to be spent on roads and motorways.
If I were one of the 15,000 civil servants waiting to be told whether or not they need to relocate out of London within the next five years, new trains will be welcome, particularly if I choose to stay living in London and travel to the regions.
The only difference may be what is packed in the lunchbox – a can of lager instead of cider possibly?