Britain now has less than 50 days to go till it heads to the polls to elect what could turn out to be its next coalition government and Chancellor George Osborne marked the occasion with his sixth (and final) Budget of this government.
In his speech, Mr Osborne boasted a number of figures released on Wednesday morning, such as a further fall in unemployment – now at 5.7%, the lowest figure since the summer of 2008 – and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has revised its forecast growth for 2015 upwards from 2.4% in the Autumn Statement to 2.5%, for 2016 revised upwards to 2.3%, 2.3% in 2017 and 2018 and 2.4% in 2019.
Some of the key points from the Budget included:
- Tax cuts to boost North Sea oil
- Fuel duty freeze extended past September’s planned rise
- Plans to ‘build-up’ the north of England
- Minimum wage to be raised by 20p
- 1p off the price of a pint for the third year in a row
- The abolishment of the annual paper tax return
Mr Osborne also grabbed the opportunity to throw a few digs at Labour leader Ed Miliband, linking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt with the relationship between Ed and his brother David: “The battle of Agincourt is, of course, celebrated by Shakespeare as a victory secured by a ‘band of brothers’. Not something the party opposite can hope for!
“It is also when a strong leader defeated an ill-judged alliance between the champion of a united Europe and a renegade force of Scottish nationalists,” Osborne goaded, bringing up the rumours of a Labour – SNP coalition once again.
The Chancellor continued to rip into Mr Miliband when announcing his technology investment in ‘the internet of things’: “Should, to use a completely ridiculous example, someone have two kitchens, they’ll be able to control two fridges from the same mobile phone.”
Opposition leader Ed Miliband hit back at the Chancellor, who failed to mention the NHS in the Budget speech, asking: “Where was the discussion on the National Health Service and investment in public services?”