he Spring Budget has now been delivered. The Chancellor gave an upbeat account of the state of the economy. He made the case that his plan was working and that better times lay ahead. National Insurance rates were lowered by 2p. Fuel tax remained unchanged. Alcohol duty remained unchanged. Despite all of the measures in this budget the overall tax burden on individuals will remain high and increase in subsequent years. It is the highest tax burden since the 1950s.

It is inevitable that the Government faced with an upcoming election will want to convince the public that they are fully in control of the public purse and that they have a plan for future growth and prosperity. Unfortunately for this government the reality is that we are in recession and growth in the economy is stagnant. Many serious problems remain unresolved. Child homelessness is a critical with a recent report stating that 55 children died as a direct result of being moved around in temporary housing. Waiting lists for routine hospital treatment remains far too high with little prospect of being reduced any time soon. Many school buildings have been shown to be unfit for purpose. Although National Insurance rates have been reduced there is the inevitable rise in council tax which will come into effect in April. In Birmingham that rise will be ten per cent. For most it will increase by 5 per cent. Food prices remain high as does fuel. The claim was made that this budget would benefit working people. The reality for those earning below £25,000 per year is that they will be worse off. It is clear that the economy is far from healthy and that this budget has done little to resolve ongoing problems.

Money is tight yet we learn that £370 million will be sent to boost the Rwanda scheme. The House of Lords is doing all it can to halt this flawed scheme. With money in short supply we learn that £15,000 legal costs incurred by a cabinet minister for wrongly accusing academics of supporting extremists is being paid by the taxpayer. This is clearly unacceptable. 

At last the status of Non Doms regarding tax loop holes is being closed. This is only partly true. The wife of the Prime Minister still claims that her main home is in India. She pays tax on her dividends from her share in her father’s company. However should she die all her wealth will pass to her husband free of inheritance tax. The Chancellor owns seven apartments in Southampton but these are held in a company so he is not personally liable for any financial implications.  These details illustrate the complex nature of the rules regarding personal finances.

The local pub is for many the hub of their community. That the alcohol duty has been frozen if only in the short term will hopefully stop the daily closure of these much cherished hubs of community life.  Raising VAT thresholds by a minimum amount will do little to aid business. It needed to be a much large jump to have any real effect. We all have to come to a judgement as to what we make of this budget. A snap opinion poll just after the budget showed 74 per cent of those questioned did not think it would be of much benefit to them. The Chancellor had very little room for action. It may well be that the election will be in the autumn and an interim financial statement will be made in the spring when it is hoped inflation will have come down further. Further tax cuts may well be brought forward to demonstrate to voters that this government has a plan for growth and individual prosperity. With the Labour lead over Conservatives consistently at 20 per cent, the road ahead to convince the public to stick with the Conservative government looks difficult.