THE PAPERS have been remarkably kind to the chancellor and the government following yesterday’s Budget.
Despite a rather empty announcement, many publications found elements to celebrate, with City AM hailing it as George Osborne’s “gift for young and old alike”.
In particular, the government’s Help-to-Buy ISA initiative – whereby the government gives first-time buyers £50 for every £200 they save – drew fulsome praise.
That was a move that prompted The Times to label Osborne the “Comeback King” as he “raided banks and the richest pension pots” to fund the breaks.
It was a Budget that “dramatically loosened the austerity corset by £16bn” ahead of the election, according to the Evening Standard, noting the £22bn to be raised through the sale of bailed out banks such as Lloyds, Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley.
Tax breaks brought in for the UK oil and gas extraction drew round applause, too, something the Telegraph said would “bolster” the North Sea industry by £1.3bn per year, “saving” it from the “pressing danger” of falling prices.
Despite those apparent positives, Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls noted there was “nothing” in the “empty” speech that the party would reverse if it wins the election, something echoed in Accountancy Age‘s editorial.
The Mirror was more scathing, attacking a “collapse in living standards” under the “hapless” Osborne.
The average wage “plummeted by more than £30-a-week in real terms”, the Mirror wrote. “leaving workers an eye-watering £1,612-a-year worse off”, while “tax hikes and benefit cuts have cost families £1,127 a year”.
The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour said much of the budget was “nakedly political”, devoted to wrong-footing Labour’s campaign. Chancellor Osborne’s rhetoric was “machine-gunned” from the despatch box, with Wintour noting that a lack of public introsecption “can grate”.
However, he wrong-footed Labour on a number of measures, and was able to claim that living standards had risen during the parliament – an area that deprived Labour of making the reverse claim.