By Penny Jones
In case you didn’t notice, the (not terribly) highly anticipated Budget 2013 was delivered this week amongst the usual unpalatable heckling and jeering from the House of Commons – as well as a quite unusual embargo-busting balls-up from the Evening Standard, with potential implications on the government’s practice of pre-briefing press (watch this space…)
So, as the Budget technically affects us all, we at Stand Agency thought we would share our personal highlights and lowlights from this year’s announcements. And first up, because I am writing it, is BOOZE! Might as well start with the important stuff and work down.
There are mixed feelings amongst the Stand crew on the 1p reduction on a pint of beer. Whilst Blair considers it to be one of his highlights, he also feels it is somewhat futile: “It’s good, but is a bit like being given £10 off a Ferrari, and will hardly have much of an impact when wages are falling”. A fair point. Fran is also ambivalent: “Drinking will become an emotional rollercoaster with the joy of 1p off a pint followed by the sad reality of more expensive wine.”
I am more decided in my opinion on this one. Why just beer?! What about CIDER George? Wine? Rum? All other drinks I like? It feels discriminatory and is, in my opinion, a headline grabbing non-event. Channel 4’s Jon Snow clearly agrees with me, pointing out via Twitter that, if you drink10 pints a week, it will save you £5 a year.
Onto lesser matters. The economy. Rebecca notes the not insignificant fact that the growth forecast for 2013 has been halved, pointing out “no matter how you dress that one up it isn’t good news”. Blair’s optimistic -sounding conclusion that it is ‘Budget of hope’ is revealed as misleading when he clarifies that it is the Chancellor’s hope (that his decisions pay dividends) to which he refers. Blair himself apparently does not hold out much hope for Osborne, simply pointing out the recent loss of our AAA rating.
Nikki was delighted to hear that the government has pledged to boost spending on infrastructure by £3bn a year from 2015/16. Why? “I like going places, and I like doing it quickly”. You can’t fault the girl’s logic. She was less excited by the childish bickering and trading of insults we had to endure as we listened live to the announcement. A feeling shared by us all.
Another common theme in the office was disappointment at the relevance to us as individuals. This is something I certainly found, and have struggled to identify anything that will have a significant impact on my life. I do single out the 20% tax relief on childcare on behalf of my sister, who has three children. Drinks are on you sis! Oh, wait, with three children, you don’t go out….
Lack of relevance was something Laura also observed, as a non-smoker, non-beer drinker and very occasional driver, she found that “very little of what Mr Osborne said got a cheer from me on a personal level”. Having started a new business in the past year, Laura was, however, encouraged to see some measures aimed at supporting small businesses. Although none were substantial on their own, she notes that a 1% reduction in corporation tax, a new £2k NI allowance and an increase in Government procurement from small firms (Stand Agency sits on the Agile comms framework) has to be good news.
Perhaps the most widely-relevant initiative, and Rebecca’s chosen high point, is the increase in the amount at which people start paying tax to £10,000. Although it doesn’t come into force for another year, it will make a big difference to most people. Fran was pleased to hear that there was some support for first-time buyers: “maybe now I’ll be able to buy a house before I’m 80!”. She was less enamoured with George Osbourne’s lack of focus on the environment. “Cancelling fuel duty rises and giving tax breaks for shale gas? On your bike Osborne!”
All in all, a mixed bag. Nothing hugely controversial, nothing hugely exciting. Will it make any difference? Ask us again in a year.