Budget 2013: Has George Osborne delivered his aspiration nation?
09:29 21 March 2013
George Osborne said “the way to restore pure economic prosperity is to energise the aspirations of the British people”. But has the chancellor done enough to inspire his “aspiration nation”? Business writer Ben Woods reports.
Editor apologises for Evening Standard leak
The political editor of the Evening Standard apologised after details of budget were published on Twitter before the Chancellor delivered his speech to MPs.
While Chancellor George Osborne was on his feet delivering the 2013 Budget, the Labour front bench were closely studying photocopies of the Standard splash which had been tweeted.
Mr Murphy tweeted during the speech: “I wish to apologise for a very serious mistake by the Evening Standard earlier which resulted in our front page being tweeted.
“We are so sorry to the House of Commons, to the Speaker and to the Chancellor for what happened. We shall be apologising to them.”
In 1947, Labour chancellor Hugh Dalton had to quit after a Budget was leaked before it was delivered in the Chamber.
The Standard’s front page today detailed several aspects of the Budget relating to duty changes, tax and macroeconomic figures.
It appeared on Twitter shortly before Mr Osborne stood up to deliver his Budget to the Commons.
As the nation continues to be stuck in the economic doldrums, the chancellor looked to stir the aspirational – and entrepreneurial – spirit of the British public to help drag Britain back to prosperity.
In a Churchillian climax to his Budget speech, George Osborne sided the government with the people who want “to work hard and get on” as he rolled out a raft of measures designed to boost job creation, pension pots and the hopes of people who want to buy their own home or move up the property ladder.
And it was the subject of housing where Mr Osborne proved most bullish, as he vowed to transform the housing market in a “dramatic way” and bring fresh hopes to people who saw their dreams of owning a house dashed by the high deposits for mortgages.
His answer came in the shape of The Help to Buy scheme – a nod to Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy Scheme– that will see the government loan a further 20pc for a deposit when someone agrees to pay the first 5pc.
It was an announcement that came in a two-part pledge that saw Mr Osborne reveal a new Mortgage Guarantee scheme which would use the government’s balance sheet to back the loans and encourage lenders to provide more mortgages from 2014.
When it comes to aspiring homeowners, the chancellor appears to have delivered. These measures could provide a boost to thousands of people who have previously been locked out of the market. But are they coming soon enough?
It would be of huge benefit to the economy, and the construction industry, to accelerate the introduction of the chancellor’s plan to help those people who are looking to make a second step on the property ladder now.
Elsewhere, the chancellor sought to make bold steps for small firms by bringing renewed confidence to those who wanted to “start their own business; or give someone a job”.
In an announcement that looked to meet the growth ambitions of start-up firms, he moved to scrap jobs tax for a third of all employers with a £2,000 cut in national insurance.
This will do no harm to aspirational companies looking to forge a long-term growth strategy of bolstering staff without fears of being punished by the tax man.
But hopes of boosting the consumer tourism industry through a cut in VAT failed to materialise in the budget, which many will see as missed opportunity to provide further help to businesses – especially in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Meanwhile, for families, the chancellor’s decision to provide help with childcare bills will prove most telling in parents’ decisions to stay at home or go back to work.
The new scheme, which will provide parents with up to £1,200 per child, may inspire some, but it may not wean enough people off the benefits system, and bring as many people back into employment as the government hopes.
However, as the chancellor said himself, the budget certainly doesn’t “duck our nation’s problems”, but whether it inspires an “aspiration nation” will only be realised in the months ahead – and this time there will be little room for mistakes.