George Osborne and Ed Balls trade pre-Budget blows

Ed Balls and George Osborne Ed Balls and George Osborne appeared on the Andrew Marr Show three days ahead of the Budget

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Chancellor George Osborne and shadow chancellor Ed Balls have set out their competing messages ahead of the Budget on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show.

Mr Osborne said the coalition's welfare reforms were "one of the most progressive things that any government has ever done".

He also revealed that the Help to Buy scheme for newly built homes would be extended to 2020.

But Mr Balls accused him of failing to stem the UK's "cost of living crisis".

The chancellor said: "I'm a low tax Conservative. I want hard-working people on all incomes to keep more of their income tax free."

'Perverse incentives'

His priority had been to increase the personal allowance on which no income tax is paid, he said.

This had taken the lowest paid two million workers out of tax altogether - but also helped those on higher incomes, he added.

Start Quote

There was nothing that could have been done pre-crisis to raise taxes or to cut spending which would have made any difference”

End Quote Ed Balls Shadow chancellor

Mr Osborne also said he had frozen fuel duty "year after year" and had "helped to keep council tax frozen".

He continued: "We had a welfare system that not only we couldn't afford but also we had these very perverse incentives that made it better for some people to stay out of work than be in work.

"We're changing all of that, and the reforms that Iain Duncan Smith and myself have brought in are one of the most progressive things that any government has ever done."

The chancellor also said the government's Help to Buy scheme had "helped people into homes, and... helped build new homes".

"I want to extend the help to buy scheme for newly built houses - it was going to end in 2016; we are now going to extend it for the rest of the decade," he said.

"That will mean 120,000 new homes."

George Osborne said the government's initial plan was to build 15,000 new homes in Ebbsfleet

He also announced plans to build a new garden city in Ebbsfleet.

But Mr Balls said the government was not investing enough in affordable homes and had presided over the "lowest level of house-building since the 1920s".

"If you boost demand with Help to Buy and don't do enough on supply, the price goes up, it's harder to get into the housing market, the economy becomes more unbalanced and the cost of living crisis gets deeper," he told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics.

Bank levy

Earlier, on the Andrew Marr Show, he had said the chancellor was "only ever tough when he is having a go at the weak and the voiceless".

By contrast, he argued, Labour would "take away the winter allowance from the richest pensioners", "re-introduce the 50p tax rate on incomes over £150,000" and impose a "mansion tax" on properties worth more than £2m.

A future Labour government would also use a bank levy "to pay for more childcare for working parents", bring back the 10p income tax rate, and abolish the "unfair and perverse marriage tax break, which George Osborne has given only to a third of married couples".

"These things are all paid for. I am not making any spending commitments which we can't say how we'll pay for them," he said.

Labour's proposed spending is all "paid for and costed", says shadow chancellor Ed Balls, and highest earners will pay more tax

The shadow chancellor also defended the previous Labour government's record in office on public spending.

"There was a global financial crisis," he said.

"At that point, we had the lowest level of national debt of any big country and George Osborne, the Conservative shadow chancellor, had matched Labour's level of public spending.

"Am I going to apologise for the level of public spending that George Osborne, Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown agreed on in 2007? Absolutely not.

"What we did on the NHS was hugely important, the national minimum wage, not joining the euro.

"The economics of this is that we had a very low deficit [and] low national debt before the crisis. What happened was a collapse in tax revenues because of the crisis.

More on Budget 2014

"There was nothing that could have been done pre-crisis to raise taxes or to cut spending which would have made any difference."

The two MPs also took to the Sunday tabloids to set out their policies.

Writing in the Sun on Sunday, Mr Osborne pledged to build what he called a "resilient economy".

But Mr Balls, in the Sunday Mirror, said millions of people were not feeling any benefit from economic recovery.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander also hailed rises in the personal tax allowance.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he said: "I made it clear at our spring conference last week that further rises would be a top priority for our party in any negotiations that might be required should the British people deliver a hung parliament.

"We aspire to raise it substantially to £12,500."

He also said the Lib Dems were committed to sticking to the plan to eradicate the deficit and get the nation's finances on a firm footing by 2018-19.

"That means that there is a period of further deficit reduction required after the next General Election."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    13 Minutes ago

    We desperately need a Political Party made up Of the People, For the People."

    That would be nice. but as flicked sheep are allowed the vote the cons and the labour will get the vote

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Today there seems to be more
    Rich people who can tax dodge.
    Pensioners and young immigrants who will themselves be old one day.
    Graduates,underqualified(!) to get the jobs they worked for.
    Working couples who can`t afford(!) their own home & children.
    There`s more people,less space,fewer jobs.And zero hours contracts.
    It's like some kind of misguided social experiment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Can the English Count?

    George Osborne says that the 40%tax payer has gained from the increase in the personal allowance. Untrue! The 40% tax band has up to the year been adjusted downwards to negate any advantage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    before starting to raise the threshold of the 40% tax rate, perhaps we should raise the starting rate to match the minimum wage first-then keep that rate & shadow more tinkering around. then look at the (relatively) well paid, earning over £42000 !

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Ed Balls not only has to explain his role in the crash but he also has to explain his wrong predictions that the economy would flat-line and the Osborne policies fail when history has shown him to be wrong and France is showing his policies for dealing with the crash would have failed miserably. Do we really want to trust the economy to a man with such a poor track record and judgement?

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    I have given up voting for the main parties, in all cases some of their policies are desirable to me but there is a lot I don't want, so I will vote for single issue parties, UKIP will get my vote next and when we have the EU issue solved I will vote for the "Bring back capital punishment" party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    If banks can afford to pay such large bonus payments the banks should be charged a bonus tax of 20 times the value of the bonus payments they make. in addition to the taxes they aready have to pay. If 20 times does not moderate the actions of the banks make it 50 times! Ther share holders will soon act to stop this then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    On yer bikes the pair of you. You're not getting my vote!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    50% top rate of tax...What will Wayne Rooney do? He'll only be on £150k a week. Think again Balls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    259-little old me - abject nonsense.Public Finances were in surplus in 1997 -we were in deficit from 2001 onwards and steadily worsening.The economy was not recovering in 2010-Balls was trying to borrow his way out and it made matters worse(he still will not accept that)-the treasury minister was even mocking that there was no money left

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    Labour have a track record of inheriting a good economy and totalling destroying it, leaving difficult and unpopular decisions for the Government that succeeds them. They also successfully managed to destroy the pensions of millions. So why would I trust them, not just this time, but ever?

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    why is everyone worried about pensions by the time most retire they will be to old to enjoy it any way the way things are going there will be no social care if you get ill you will have to pay for some young carer on low wages to look after you while some big company makes a profit out of you. open dignitas clinics I don't want to get old in this country if the torys get in

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Idiots, all idiots.. .. ..

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    George Osborne is so far out of his depth it beggars belief.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    @251. ohgoodgrief

    And we had the highest NHS satisfaction ratings ever

    Wonder where those satisfaction ratings are now.

    Anyway, if you have an issue with public spending, maybe you should seek to terminate all private enterprise suckling on the teat of government

    BTW what is wrong with a strong public sector, given the fact that for the private to exist there has to be strong public spending

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Osborne talks about making hard decisions and then does the cuts for people his party doesn't like or support so that is bogus. Hard decisions for a conservative would be things which would adverse[y effect his natural supporters which is not what he is offering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    Balls was one of the architects of the wrecking of he UK economy from 1997 to 2010. Osborne has significantly improved the economy.

    How ignorant do you have to be not to follow those simple facts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    Amazing how Balls is ever taken seriously . His body language says dishonest. No doubt if he was ever put in charge he would make a complete BALLS up of it as he did before with his mentor Brown.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    "He also announced plans to build a new garden city in Ebbsfleet."

    I hope he's asked someone to look at the Flood Maps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    Politicians don't run the economy.It is the other way round.Your tax is paid by the employer.Cutting tax will not end up in your pocket but the employers.You need to get rid of the capitalist parasite class and grow a pair,Establish a global,democratic,free access,moneyless,society in common with workers worldwide.

    Hear hear, the wealthy won't like it though!


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