Budget: Airport capacity must be confronted in South East
- 21 March 2012
- From the section England
There's always a lot of speculation in the run up to a Budget but what's been different about this one is the kind of mega-phone diplomacy that the Liberal Democrats have chosen to take part in.
They were clearly keen to differentiate between themselves and the Conservatives, and also to try and hold the government to account and demonstrate that they're on the side of fairness.
The one thing the coalition parties have not argued about is the need to keep cutting the deficit at the pace they have set.
There will still be many, many billions of spending cuts this year and against them, most of the tax changes announced today will pale into insignificance.
So after all the speculation about mansion or tycoon taxes or the scrapping of the 50p tax rate, what did we actually get when the Chancellor took to his feet at 12:30 in the Commons?
First the positive news for the South East.
The Chancellor announced measures to drive growth and rebalance the economy including an extra £46 million for the South East Local Enterprise Partnerships to unblock local projects.
He also confirmed £56 million of support for the long-awaited Bexhill to Hastings link road.
That's been welcomed by the Hastings and Rye MP, Amber Rudd.
Another potentially major infrastructure project was also mentioned - the need to create more airport capacity in the South East.
Just last week I interviewed Sir Richard Branson who is calling for a third runway at Heathrow, which has been ruled out by the three main parties.
George Osborne addressed that today and said the government "must confront the lack of airport capacity in the South East of England - we cannot cut ourselves off from the fastest growing cities in the world".
It's the strongest hint yet the government will take action to increase capacity, but to find out how we will have to wait for the Transport Secretary Justine Greening's review which will set out government thinking later this summer.
Onto the tax changes we heard so much about before the Budget...
As predicted, George Osborne said that from next year the higher rate of tax would fall from 50p to 45p.
On child benefit he said that he wanted it to be fair - and not involve means testing.
He said the government wants to avoid a "cliff edge" where those on the higher tax rate were to lose all of their child benefits.
Now, the benefit will only be withdrawn when someone in a household earns more than £50,000.
It will also be gradual so only those earning more than £60,000 will lose all their child benefit.
Both of those measures will no doubt affect more people in the South East than elsewhere, where salaries are generally higher.
At the other end of the scale Mr Osborne announced that the personal tax allowance will rise by £1,100 from April 2013 to £9,205, making 24 million people £220 a year better off.
But don't worry if you want to know where all that tax you're paying actually goes - Mr Osborne said that a personal tax statement to be sent to 20 million tax payers from 2014.
You'll be given a breakdown of exactly just how your taxes are being spent.
He also said the income tax allowance for pensioners will be frozen in real terms.
It's estimated the simplification of the tax system for pensioners will hit OAPs and could raise a great deal of revenue for the government.
As for the usual targets, the price of a pint will increase by more than 5p and the duty on all tobacco products will rise at 6pm tonight by 5% above inflation - that's 37p on a packet of cigarettes.
And on fuel duty - the one so many motorists were hoping to see a cut in - there was little relief.
George Osborne said the fair fuel stabiliser will mean that above inflation rises in fuel duty will only return if price of oil falls below $45 a barrel.
Some small consolation for businesses...
Mr Osborne froze vehicle excise duty for hauliers.
The Chancellor announced a reform of the tax system for small firms and a review of VAT.
He also announced the government would fund ultra fast broadband and wi-fi in 10 of the UK's largest cities.
But the South East didn't miss out as he said the MP for Brighton Kemptown (Simon Kirby) had asked him to help small cities .
And he said, with that in mind, he was announcing £50 million will be available for smaller cities too.