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 433.

    Ed Balls has as much to offer the country in financial terms as a Rabbi in a pork butchers! Balls has no idea as to how to support real growth, if he had why did he just spend like a pools winner in non wealth creating jobs? Under Labour we had lots of seat warmers jobs but they were happy to see manufacturing jobs disappear as a rate of knots! He is not to be trusted ever again! Balls screwed us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    421. Mike

    What are you going to do? Force people to stand for office?
    In any case ordinary people can stand and often do. The trouble is, other ordinary people - voters, fail to vote for them

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    I dare say most of the Tories are now looking to retire to cushy jobs from their buddies, there's nothing much left to sell off now, having completed Mrs T's family silver raid.
    The post office a lovely little number eh & Dim Vince harping on about being the correct price shows how they have infected the Libs with heir dishonesty.
    We got an instant benefit from privatisation costlier stamps

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    Yes Foxy1952, that's right, I said take all the money away from the vulnerable in society. Nice one. Talk about completely missing the point

    I don't care eitherway about the 50p tax rate, it's irrelavant because it raises naff all anyway. It's hardly funded by the blood of the workers.

    I'm somewhere in middle, single working parent in a family, it's actually us getting screwed most as it goes

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Never since Tweedledum met Tweedledee has there been such excitement. Goodness me! It is time taxes went up so we can invest in a brand new rattle.

    Never before in the history of human endeavour has so much trivia been seen by so few........

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    No real differences between any party these days. Most politicians are in it to get as much for themselves as they can. Most things they do are only aimed at improving things for themselves. Can't really trust any of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    High Numbers (413), that's such a vacuous non sequitur - but at least you're right about one thing: "Labour aren't great."

    Have a jolly afternoon in Cloud Cuckoo land.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    .. there is no common goals or joined up thinking between the parties

    All 3 main parties & UKIP are neo-liberals, they all subscribe to the same economic goals & ideas, they're squabbling over minor details to make themselves look different. At the last election the difference between Tory & Labour was, in a trillion pound economy, a rounding off error in spending - £6billion

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    There really is no difference between the two parties anymore - other than different coloured ties.

    Would Ed Balls make a better job of the economy, would his policies have any difference? Probably not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    Isn't it strange that the 11% payrise for MPs + the 5% payrise for Mrs Windsor, and the bonuses of employees of banks owned (in part) by the taxpayer, during this time of austerity (when NHS staff (amongst others) get a below inflation payrise) are not being discussed? The media in this country is a disgrace, and allows MPs to get away with maintaining the status quo for the establishment!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    I have always been, generally, a Conservative voter but our choice in 2015 is either the smug Tories, incompetent Labour or the useless LD's Cameron says he will give us a vote on the EU but I don't believe him. I am 68 and have decided to vote UKIP for the rest of my life. I don't agree with a lot of their policies, but if (say) 20 UKIP got into Parliament it would change politics completely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    No mention of reducing the 11.5 billion we give out in aid every year. We are a country dependant on food banks and 100's of charities yet we give our hard earned taxes away. Charity begins at home stop paying out and reduce every bodies taxes, reduce the pension age= more jobs and more tax payers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Let us do away with 'career politicians' and instead have ordinary members of the public with some real life experience seconded for a period of time to do it.

    we have ordinary members of the public serving as jurors & school governors

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    Balls or Osbourne, Labour or Tories you can’t get a sheet of paper between them and frankly it doesn’t matter, the UKs economic woes are tied in to the wider world economy and that is being run by people who can’t see the way out of continuing to run with a failed model. A model that only really benefits the few, the few that are running it and their friends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    Same old labour tax and socialist liturgy and the politics of envy, with welfare for all. Personal responsibility and aspiration never features in any labour policy. We are tired of the years of tax and spend. Brown/Balls Labour nearly sent us bankrupt and Balls is still in denial. Get lost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    Lets stop the Foreign Aid of £12 Billion given to India to fund its space program and buying of French Fighters and Africa who spends over $40 Billion on weapons each year.

    Lets invest that money in this country to help reduce the large numbers of food banks and our huge debt mountain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    Labours only solution is to tax people who are successful. Its a real vote winner pandering to the lazy, feckless benefits street numpties

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    "What are blathering on about?
    Tories have done stuff all for savers - they're too busy keeping their bank sponsors happy"
    Constructive as ever - it's called economics but you're again confused by the politics of the failed socialist experiment ... but hey, you feel free to vote for the bitter and twisted politic of envy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    Watch the price of the banks that *you paid for* increase in price (once the Tories have sold to their mates) - investors will be assured that your money helped de-toxify them. However, you're not allowed to own them as it breaks the, corporate US supported, EU anti-competition laws.

    The UK tax payer will continue paying the interest on the 'free' loan given to banks - George has borrowed more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    H2B scheme has done nothing to help FTB’s.

    It’s inflated HP’s by 19k in a year, killing off the dreams & aspirations of genuine savers!

    The sooner the savers, OAP’s, sick & unemployed get rid of this government, the better!

    I just wish there were an Elliot Ness of politics somewhere!


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