This may have been the first Conservative Budget since Ken Clarke had the honour of standing at the Despatch Box back in November 1996, but it was delivered by an exceptionally experienced Chancellor of the Exchequer. In a speech lasting over an hour, George Osborne effectively balanced the bitter pill of welfare reform with a range of headline-grabbing initiatives.
This was a Budget that aimed to set the debate for the coming Parliament, simply by promising to ‘give you more of your money if you are willing to work.’ For weeks now, speculation has focused on welfare reform – and reformed it was. A long list of changes included tax credits and housing allowance being frozen, a reduction in the benefit cap, limits in Child Tax Credits and conditions on the Universal Credit system. This reform was complemented by big announcements on the National Living Wage, an increase in the Personal Allowance and reform of inheritance tax.
Dubbed as a productivity Budget, Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie was quick to point to page 77 of the OBR report, which stresses productivity continuing to stagnate during the course of this Parliament. The challenge will be whether any of today’s announcements, whether on roads or apprenticeships, will have an impact on this challenge.
If I were to pick an obvious winner from today’s Budget, it would be the banks. After months of wrangling around the bank levy, the Chancellor finally set the policy on course for reform. The unfortunate losers were students. After the tuition fees increase in the last Parliament, the conversion of maintenance grants into loans is not going to go down well.
To guide you through today’s key announcements their implications, Edelman has prepared a briefing which you can view and download below or here.