Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

FAMILIES FIRST IN BROWN'S GIVEAWAYExtra Money for Schools, Parents in Bid for Votes; Blatant Bid for Votes by Chancellor

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

FAMILIES FIRST IN BROWN'S GIVEAWAYExtra Money for Schools, Parents in Bid for Votes; Blatant Bid for Votes by Chancellor

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

GORDON BROWN unveiled a shamelessly vote-grabbing Budget with billions for schools, cash for families and free bus travel for pensioners.

Amid the pre-election giveaways, he also spared most taxpayers any punishment.

For homebuyers, Mr Brown doubled the point at which stamp duty is paid from [pounds sterling]60,000 to [pounds sterling]120,000.

It was an "all gain, no pain" package. He promised no rise in fuel duty until September, a freeze on corporation tax, capital gains tax, air passenger duty, insurance premium tax and company car tax. He put just 1p on a pint of beer, 4p on a bottle of wine and froze duty on spirits, cider and sparkling wine.

Even smokers breathed easy, with the rise in tobacco duty kept down to 7p.

Mr Brown unveiled a major long-term programme to rev ive and upg rade primary schools. He also announced a council tax refund for every pensioner household of [pounds sterling]200.

Some six million low income working families received a cash boost from higher tax credits.

In a radical move, Mr Brown announced a series of measures aimed at ensuring young people were in education or training from the age of three right up to 18.

He said 17-year-olds in full time education or unwaged training would be given [pounds sterling]75 in education maintenance allowances and children's benefits - with those both out of work and education offered "special transitional help" to go back to training.

All young employees would be offered apprenticeships or college-based training and there would be a five-year [pounds sterling]1.5 billion are fully affordable and we are taking no risks with stability.

"And today the British people will see it is only this Government which can maintain that hard won stability, make the necessary investment to equip Britain for the long term economic challenges, and continue to put Britain's hard working families first."

His words made clear that he expects to meet his "golden rule" and that the Treasury's widely-doubted forecasts for growth and borrowing will come in on target.

The relentless focus on help for low income families was expected to be at the heart of the modest but carefully-aimed giveaways.

It was expected to include extra cash, especially to those with children, paid out through child tax credits and the working tax credit. That looked calculated to set a clear dividing line with the Tories, who are expected to raise tax thresholds instead to benefit both well-off and poor families.

Mr Brown headed to No10 this morning to brief the Cabinet on a package which rattled Labour MPs hope will seize back the election agenda from Michael Howard's revived Conservatives. Among other popular measures, he was set to postpone any rise in fuel duty until September, when a 1. …

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