Budget 2003: Budget Analysis - Clever, Tough, but a Bit Smug

The Birmingham Post (England), April 10, 2003 | Go to article overview

Budget 2003: Budget Analysis - Clever, Tough, but a Bit Smug


Byline: Nevill Boyd Maunsell

Chancellor Gordon Brown's seventh Budget was like the six before it - clever, complicated, tough, imaginative, rich on rhetoric about enterprise and the value of work. And, it has to be said, more than a touch smug.

This time Mr Brown had absolutely nothing to give anybody. His public spending drive, the biggest in British history, is set in stone and swallowing money faster than the flagging British economy is generating tax revenues. And the Iraq war has stung him for an unexpected pounds 3 billion.

Just the same, he refrained from imposing any new taxes - not even the delayed action kind, like last year's National Insurance contributions - and contrived to serve up two helpings of jam tomorrow.

The real surprise was a promise to examine the inadequate array of tax breaks and incentives intended to help museums and art galleries buy works of art that would otherwise be sold abroad.

Since works of art tend to be sold to pay tax bills this is something only a Chancellor can tackle. Some people will be surprised that this particular Chancellor would bother. All power to him.

Less surprising perhaps, now that Mr Brown is a father-in-waiting, is his evident determination to make the Child Trust Fund happen.

It is a curious ambition, to provide every 18-year-old with the wherewithal to buy a motorbike - or else choose between the bike and running up debts at university.

It is another stroke of Brownite redistribution, but hard to fight on principle.

Unless the financial services fraternity mess it up, it could have far-reaching social and financial consequences. Imagine a whole generation knowing, from personal experience, that saving works.

This was not a Budget with much joy for the army of organisations that had lobbied for minor mercies. Some had even hoped that the Chancellor might have second thoughts about the consequences of the National Insurance contributions that went up this week.

This was never going to be a Budget with anybody's pounds 8 billion giveaway.

Ian Rough at the Black Country Chamber spoke for many when he deplored the lack of temporary help for manufacturing - not even mercy on insurance premium tax, which has almost doubled in step with many premiums. …

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