Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Chancellor's Very Political Budget

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Chancellor's Very Political Budget

Article excerpt

THE Chancellor's Budget speech has a context and an agenda: the EU referendum and the Chancellor's own leadership ambitions. If the Budget reads more like a Queen's speech, with its agenda for government, especially education, that's in keeping with George Osborne's hopes to succeed David Cameron.

The most populist, and probably the most popular, element of the Budget are the measures specifically to deal with tax-avoiding developers responsible for some of London's most expensive luxury properties, who make billions on apartments bought by international investors but whose headquarters are registered in lower-tax jurisdictions such as the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. This will not only please Londoners, who resent the proliferation of properties intended for wealthy overseas buyers, but also those companies that do pay UK tax. The move will not quite do away with the public perception that some big companies such as Google get off lightly in their dealings with the tax authorities, but his focus on property developers here is very shrewd.

There are two big elements to the spending promises in the Budget, to offset the PS4 billion worth of cuts trailed in advance. One is infrastructure. The Chancellor's trademark in office has been his support for big transport projects. To London's great benefit one of them is Crossrail 2, which this Budget confirms. Admittedly, the project will, by the time of its completion in the 2030s, only keep pace with London's burgeoning population, but it is good that planning can now get properly under way. Crossrail 2 will help address other problems besides dangerous overcrowding on the Tube it will go a long way to deal with the housing crisis.

Focus on education The surprise element of the Budget is its focus on schools, in particular, the funding for extended school hours until 4. …

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