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Budget 2014: Our panellists give their reaction

Budget 2014: Our panellists give their reaction

Daisy Sands, Head of Policy & Campaigns at the Fawcett Society

Today’s budget contained a little help but a lot of hurt for women.

The greatest hit came with the introduction of the £119bn cap on in-work welfare spending for 2015-16. Some 80 per cent of the money already slashed from the welfare bill has come from women’s pockets. This welfare cap continues to put women in the firing line for years to come.

This budget will also do nothing to tackle the increasingly ‘female unfriendly’ labour market: since 2010 men’s unemployment levels have decreased by 17 per cent, whilst women’s have risen by 7 per cent. Over a million women are still out of work.

Whilst investment in physical infrastructure is welcome, it will not benefit women unless occupational segregation is tackled. Men accounted for more than 75 per cent of manufacturing employees last year and women made up only 1.9% of apprenticeship starts in construction.

Increasing the Personal Tax Allowance will also do nothing to help the nearly 4 million people earning too little to pay tax in the first place – the majority of whom are women.

However the changes to the childcare support are welcome as an additional 300,000 of the poorest families will receive up to 85 per cent of their child care costs.

Richard Murphy, chartered accountant, tax expert and economist

The budget the UK needed this year should have delivered investment, homes, jobs (most especially for the young) and growing income for people struggling to make ends meet.

We did not get that. We got a budget that promised more austerity and cuts in benefits for the disabled and those on low income; a budget that encouraged the burning of carbon, no new housing, token gestures on tax relief for investment and a massive tax boost for those who can save £15,000 a year, who by definition don't need it.

As for my specialist area of tax avoidance, the measures paper over cracks, some actually made by this government.

This was a dull budget aimed at the wealthy grey haired voter by a Chancellor who could not admit that even by his own terms he's failed. It was the last thing this country needed. But at least next year we can do something about it.

Ann Pettifor, Director of Policy Research in Macroeconomics

This year’s Budget should have responded to the need to urgently diversify Britain’s energy mix; and to achieve greater energy efficiency.

Such investment is sorely needed. In Q4 2013, total investment (public and private) was still 1.3% below the 2010 figure.  Business investment has finally started a modest increase, and is up 1.5% on the 2010 figure.  But government Gross Fixed Capital Formation or investment is down a huge 9.3%.  (And despite all the media interest in the housing bubble, housing investment (which includes maintenance etc. as well as new build) is up just 1.4%.)

As many economists have argued, the Chancellor could finance such urgently needed investment at historically unprecedented low rates of interest.  Such low-cost public investment in energy infrastructure would achieve important economic, energy and environmental goals. There were tiny measures like £200m for potholes, but this was a missed opportunity.

Tim Roache, President of Class and GMB Regional Secretary for Yorkshire and North Derbyshire 

They’re calling it the beer and bingo budget. Perhaps that’s the modern day version of bread and circuses – offer working class people a few things to keep them entertained and hope they’re too distracted to notice the Chancellor has failed even by his own standards.

Osborne’s claim that the economy will get back to pre-recession levels this year is utterly misleading. GDP per head is still 5.7% lower than 2007 and real wages are also down 13.8%.  There is a very long way to go to get living standards for the vast majority of workers back to pre-recession levels.

The budget is doing very little to get the 912,000 unemployed aged 16-24 into proper jobs. As some 246,000 have been out of work for over a year there is a grave danger of seeing a lost generation. Meanwhile, elderly wealthy voters seem to have done quite well under Osborne’s proposals.

Perhaps not so much beer and bingo as blue rinse.

Stefan Stern, journalist

It’s official – the 2015 general election is underway. If you had been in any doubt about that just consider some of the main announcements in today’s budget speech – the appeal to (better off) pensioners with the abolition of compulsory annuities, tax breaks on ISAs, the freezing of duty on whisky and the penny off a pint of beer, and a tax cut for bingo halls. It was a budget with Nigel Farage’s appeal in mind, and “more blue rinse than blue collar”, as the Mirror’s James Lyons observed.

George Osborne is, to use the popular Westminster clichés, “doubling down” to preserve his “core vote”. It was a brazenly political budget speech, with very little economics in it. The fact is that the economic recovery, which may look good to some on paper, has delivered very little cheer to most people in the UK so far. Even those who have come off unemployment have often found only part-time or uninspiring work. Productivity remains low, and wages remain flat.

So the chancellor’s rather triumphalist tone was not in keeping with the reality of life experienced by most people. It was a budget speech designed to cheer up his own side, and win back some support. But the morning after when people go back to work – or not – reality will be all too apparent again. A touch more humility and moderation would have been welcome. But these are not the chancellor’s strong suits.

It was not, in truth, a particularly interesting budget speech, with the exception of the news on annuities. The news coming out of the Old Bailey, where the former News of the World journalist Clive Goodman was giving evidence, was far more interesting and perhaps of far greater significance.