Budget statements are pretty dull affairs.
Amidst a blizzard of statistics and percentages, most voters just want to know how much more they’ll have to pay for a pint, a pack of smokes, and a gallon of petrol.
What little fun stuff there once was has been purged, such as the customary dram of whisky beside the despatch box to assist the chancellor’s oratory — or his nerves.
So below we’ve cut through the facts and figures to bring you the key details you need to work out whether the Budget is good or bad for you and your family.
It was a good Budget for…
Smokers and drinkers
There were no changes to the duty on tobacco, normally an easy hit for a chancellor keen to rake in some cash.
The price of a pint will go down by a penny for the third year in a row, while the country’s cider drinkers will be raising a glass at the news of a 2% cut.
Scotland is hardly a battleground for the Tories but Mr Osborne made a pitch for votes anyway with a 2% cut on Scotch whisky duty.
The chancellor cancelled the fuel duty hike planned for the autumn and declared “the longest duty freeze in over twenty years”.
“It’s £10 off a tank with the Tories,” he told the Commons to cheers from his backbenches.
The coalition government has made taking more people out of tax one of its top priorities. Their goal of raising the tax-free income allowance to £10,000 by May 2015 has already been exceeded, with the exemption set to hit £10,600 in a fortnight.
Mr Osborne announced that the personal allowance would go up again to £10,800 in 2016 and £11,000 in 2017.
This, he said, represented a tax cut for 27 million Britons and took almost four million low-paid workers out of tax completely.
The threshold for higher-rate payers would also rise, from £42,385 to £43,300 by 2017/18. The married couples tax allowance will also go up to £1100.
Pensioners will be able to access their annuity earlier and the 55% tax levied will be reduce to the marginal rate.
ISAs will become more flexible and savers will be allowed to take money out and put it back in without losing their tax-free entitlement.
A Help to Buy ISA scheme will see the government put up £50 for every £200 raised by the saver towards a deposit, up to £3000.
Seventeen million people with savings will no longer pay tax on their nest egg, with an allowance of £1000 from 2016, or £500 for those on the higher rate.
The government will tout this as rewarding the responsible. It is doubtless an attempt to grab aspirational voters, including first-time buyers, in Labour/Tory marginals.
To address the impact of the global oil price collapse on the North Sea sector, the chancellor announced a “single, simply, and generous tax allowance” to boost investment. He also pledged money for seismic surveys to identify new oil fields and a cut in petroleum revenue tax from 50% to 35%. The supplementary charge will be slashed from 30% to 20% and backdated to January.
This, according to Mr Osborne, represented a £1.3bn support package for Scotland’s oil industry and would grow production by 15% within five years. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who pushed for the chancellor to help the North Sea industry, will be pleased with herself today.
The news will be welcomed by the troubled energy sector but it was also a useful opportunity to have a swipe at the Nationalists, who based their plans for independence on oil prices of $113 a barrel but find the current value closer to $50.
The Tory politician said: “It goes without saying that an independent Scotland would never have been able to afford such a package of support. But it is one of the great strengths of our three-hundred year old union that just as we pool our resources, so too we share our challenges and find solutions together.
“For we are one United Kingdom.”
It was a bad Budget for…
Banks and multinationals
£900m a year will be taken from the banking sector by raising the bank levy rate to 0.21%. Banks will also be banned from taking a corporation tax deduction on PPI compensation paid out to customers.
Overall, bankers will take a £5.3bn hit from the measures announced on Wednesday.
Multinationals will face a diverted profits tax if they transfer their profits overseas.
In a move aimed at tackling tax evasion, there will be a common reporting standard to allow governments to share information about people’s assets and incomes.
Mr Osborne said measures to crackdown on tax dodging would raise £3.1bn.
The chancellor boasted that coalition policies were saving £21bn per year from the welfare spend. As part of his efforts to reduce the debt, Mr Osborne announced a further £12bn in benefits savings.
The books will be balanced, even if that means on the backs of the poor and vulnerable.
Mr Osborne ruled out limiting the annual allowance on pension pots and diverting the money saved to bring down tuition fees.
“I have examined this proposal,” he hold the House. “It involves penalising moderately-paid, long-serving public servants, including police officers, teachers and nurses, and instead rewarding higher paid graduates.”
This is the point where students do their Kevin-the-Teenager turn and complain “It’s not fair!” Tough. You don’t vote. Older people do. They get the goodies. You do the maths.
Those not keen on speaking Russian
The chancellor took a convoluted pop at Ed Miliband over his two kitchens:
“We’ll invest in what is known as the Internet of Things. This is the next stage of the information revolution, connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances.
“So should – to use a ridiculous example – someone have two kitchens, they will be able to control both fridges from the same mobile phone.”
And he really strained to get in a dig at any possible Labour/SNP pact after the election:
“We could not let the 600th anniversary of Agincourt pass without commemoration.
“The battle of Agincourt is, of course, celebrated by Shakespeare as a victory secured by a ‘band of brothers’. 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.
“So it is well worth the £1m we will provide to celebrate it.”
The jury is still out on…
Whether any of this will actually repair the economy…
Whether the Budget can swing the election for the Tories…
The Conservative-led coalition government has a mixed record but there are positives. Almost two million jobs have been created on the coalition’s watch, roughly 1000 per day. Four-fifths of these, the chancellor said, were skilled and full-time. And what’s more the north west of England was growing faster in employment terms than anywhere else in the UK.
Yorkshire, Mr Osborne told the chamber, had created more jobs than all of France. William Hague, two seats away, appeared to take some pride in that revelation.
But the Conservatives face an uphill struggle in selling this message to the voters, who consistently tell pollsters that they do not feel significantly better off today than they did five years ago.
Part of the problem is the party leadership. David Cameron looks like a Prime Minister and George Osborne a Chancellor. They provide a powerful contrast with Labour leader Ed Miliband, who looks permanently out of his depth.
However, just as Mr Miliband does not inspire confidence as a leader, the Prime Minister and Chancellor struggle to sound like they empathise with the lives of the average Briton. They talk about struggling families and parents ambitious for their children but they speak aspiration as a second language.
Mr Miliband isn’t particularly personable in this regard but the two Oxbridge posh boys make more obvious villains. If he can hammer home his message that the Tories are for the well-off and don’t understand, let alone care about, the challenges facing middle-class families, he could nudge himself over the line and see Labour become the largest party in the Commons.
If the Lib Dems will get any credit for the coalition’s successes…
Originally published on STV News. Feature image © altogetherfool by Creative Commons 2.0.