Clare Goodswen: Theatrical performance, but will it keep Osborne in the job?
- Credit: PA
George Osborne had an air of the pantomime dame about him when he stood up and delivered his final budget speech of this parliament.
The measures announced were intended to appeal to the widest cross section of voters with the general election only 50 days away. The budget speech seemed to me to declare the Conservatives' election campaign well and truly open.
The stony faces from the opposition benches only served to emphasise the point that George Osborne was deliberately delivering popular measures to appeal to voters in marginal seats, as well as traditional Tory voters.
The big news was the sweetener for the younger voters with the new Help to Buy ISA which supports first time homebuyers to save for a deposit on a home worth up to £250,000 (£450,000 in London). This will provide government support up to £3,000 if matched with savings of £12,000.
The new personal savings allowance will be introduced from April 2016 and will take 95pc of the UK's savers out of income tax on savings income. This combined with the introduction of digital tax accounts for millions of taxpayers, including self employed people, will cut the red tape associated with tax compliance for most UK taxpayers, by abolishing the annual tax return.
This is a clever move by the government. They aim to cut central government spending by billions of pounds and reducing the compliance burden of administering the tax system will help with that – assuming they can get the IT systems in place to administer the changes which are expected to be fully operational by 2020. Fit-for-purpose admin systems have never been a strength of HM Revenue and Customs in the past.
The measures announced were broadly neutral in terms of the cost to the exchequer, so once again it was a cleverly structured budget with lots of measures promised in the future. It remains to be seen whether it serves its purpose and George Osborne keeps his job after May 7.