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
    +3

    Comment number 553.

    Why not do something that helps everyone ( not just those who earn enough to even pay tax) and reduce VAT. Everyone wins and it gets the economy moving. It worked last time - something George conveniently forgets.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 552.

    The LIBLABCON is over for me,none of them will get my vote!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 551.

    @526. Whatsyourproblem

    " It is an Etonian thing that seperates the "US" from "THEM"."

    That would explain why it comes across as so arrogant and condescending.

    Come 2015 however, I, for one, will not be doffing my cap.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 550.

    544. Been saying exactly the same for years but I advocate 25 percent but keep increasing the allowance threshold. The thing is you will always get those on medium to low income saying the rich are getting away with it (with this system they probably would pay more) and the have nots/envious wanting what the haves have and thus becoming the haves themselves. You cannot win in this Country.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 549.

    546. Ridiculous comment. £10 hour minimum wage would result in massive unemployment!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 548.

    ask yourself this question would you buy a used car from either of them

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 547.

    @542

    He had little choice but to adopt Labours spending plans. Any massive (but probably necessary) cuts to public spending would have been met with public outcry especially during a recession.

    The left are still in denial that Labour overspent during the boom period they presided over, unbelievable.

    @540

    Dress it up however you want but the fact remains Labour overspent as per usual.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 546.

    I also think abolishing the BBC licence fee which is, in effect another tax, would be a good idea, as would abolishing VAT from a raft of essential items needed for daily living such as utilities. Also the threshold of taxable income needs to be raised to £12,500 & a minimum wage of £10/hr across the UK. Anything less is unreasonable & unrealistic.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 545.

    539 Muiriel
    You are forgetting banking, you have crooks investigating crooks there.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 544.

    the way they are going the starting rate and the 40% rate thresholds shoud meet soon, so you will either pay nothing or 40%, maybe that what they acually want.
    It would save time and confusion if they just had a flat 20% rate, no allowences/loop holes, just the one rate for all.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 543.

    Both sides are rotten to the core. The bankers & big business run the show & Joe Public has no say, no say at all.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 542.

    533 Chubby

    Public spending was pre the global financial crash was at a level that achieved political consensus. This is demonstrably true as it is a matter of factual record that George Osborne adopted Labour's spending plans in 2007. Si if it was out of control as you suggest, then George didn't agree at the time.

    Strange that everyone is wise with hindsight!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 541.

    It's a global economy, that's true, but local communities must be enabled.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 540.

    533.Chubby1
    You don't seem to know the difference between a cyclical deficit and a discretionary (structural) deficit. The increase in the deficit from 2008 happened because of a collapse in tax revenue associated with the recession - there were no give-aways that caused that.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 539.

    Amazing how Politics seems to be the only profession without some sort of regulation (self or otherwise). Demonstrate the sort of incompetence in office and general untruthfulness that the average UK politician exhibits in any other industry and you'd be going to gaol pretty quickly.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 538.

    GB was Ball's and Milband's mentor and doesn't it show. Wasn't it ED that said Govt policies would drive up unemployment to 3m+ it's now 2.3m. Didn't he say there wouldn't be any growth it's now higher than most of Europe. Why put in a 10% tax and take out only to put it back in again, why live with 40% until 6 weeks before being kicked out he's just trying to be popular. GO marginally better!!!!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 537.

    Wait a minute........2 Satan's?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 536.

    The whole situation in the world is absurd. There are very obvious solutions to the issues we face, but nobody wants to implement them for fear of being labelled a communist. Why have we issues? Uneven distribution of wealth. Who has shouyldered the burden of the crash? The poorest, all the while the richest get richer and we continue to pay yo more to recieve yo less. Absurd.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 535.

    497. john
    (Cont) Of course without tax credits the benefits bill would be smaller but then we really would resemble the third world with literally hundreds of thousands of people if not millions unable to feed themselves or their children, Investment would have gone elsewhere if the government had been unwilling to make up the poor wages being offered in trickle down eco world,

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 534.

    As the NHS has now officially been privatised, NI also needs to be abolished. Governments are quick to impose taxes when it suits them, very reluctant to abolish or reduce them except in election year!

 

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  53.  
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  54.  
    08:16: 'Work to do' BBC Radio 4 Today

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  55.  
    08:14: 'Narrowing inequality' BBC Radio 4 Today

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  56.  
    08:12: Household incomes BBC Radio 4 Today

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  57.  
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  58.  
    08:03: UKIP manifesto The Guardian

    Quick hat tip to the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow. He points out that Nigel Farage was wrong to say UKIP never said it would publish its manifesto at the spring conference during his Today interview. Suzanne Evans, UKIPs deputy chairman, said this in January, when she took over responsibility for the manifesto.

    "I relish the task of putting together the final details and presenting a sensible, radical and fully-costed manifesto at our spring conference in Margate."

     
  59.  
    @patrickwintour Patrick Wintour, political editor of the Guardian

    tweets: The UKIP migration target of 20,000 to 50,000 is billed by Farage as "Back to Normality", a fine broader election slogan for UKIP.

     
  60.  
    @jameschappers James Chapman, Daily Mail political editor

    tweets: How would quitting EU allow migration control as Ukip claims? Free trade would have to include free movement. Switz has migrant pop of 23%

     
  61.  
    07:54: After the riots BBC Radio 4 Today

    BBC Radio 4's Tom Bateman is in Tottenham for the Today programme. He's looking at how much - if anything - has changed in the area since the 2011 London riots.

    Despite a number of high-profile initiatives there are still not enough funds available to help young people into jobs in Haringey, Chris Hall, the head of a local school for children expelled from the mainstream system, says.

    He adds that lack of jobs remains the biggest problem in the borough, with unemployment levels well above the national average, At the same time the council has to find £70m of spending cuts.

     
  62.  
    07:50: UKIP manifesto BBC Radio 4 Today

    When will your manifesto come out Mr Farage? "It'll be coming out in April. I suspect it'll come out later than the other parties... Later so that what we say will have some impact." He says he would "never have contemplated" releasing it last week despite it being reported that, in fact, that was what was originally planned.

     
  63.  
    @sundersays Sunder Katwala, director of @britishfuture on identity and integration

    tweets: Ukip 5 year "immigration ban" was actually a moratorium on integration (settlement & citizenship). Glad if thats gone

     
  64.  
    07:44: Outside the EU BBC Radio 4 Today

    Pressed on the suggestion of a 50,000 limit made very recently by his immigration spokesman, Mr Farage replies, his ire rising a bit: "We're not having caps, we're getting rid of caps." He goes on: "I do not believe we would need up to 50,000 people a year. I think the figure would be substantially lower." He says the UK is currently discriminating against better skilled people from outside the EU in favour of low-skilled European workers.

     
  65.  
    @IsabelHardman Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of the Spectator

    tweets: Chris Leslie's r4 slot showed programming your frontbenchers to chant "out of touch" isn't quite enough to deal with good economic news

     
  66.  
    07:36: Immigration 'normality' BBC Radio 4 Today

    "Back to normality - what we had from Windrush to the year 2000" - that's what Nigel Farage tells Today he wants to return the level of net migration to.

     
  67.  
    07:34: 'More flexibility' BBC Radio 4 Today

    "I'm not putting caps or targets," Mr Farage continues. "You need to have more flexibility than that." "What I want to talk about is how we'd be better off with an Australian-style points system."

     
  68.  
    @Peston Robert Peston BBC economics editor

    tweets: Living standards back to where they were in 2007-8, but mainly for those over 60. & are rising strongly now, says IFS

     
  69.  
    07:28: Eurostar sale
    Eurostar train

    In case you're wondering what Barry Sheerman was tweeting about, the government announced overnight it had sold its stake in Eurostar. The stake is being bought by a Canadian pension fund and a UK asset manager, who will buy shares for £585m. Eurostar will also hand over £170m to redeem shares which guarantee a dividend. The government's stake was officially valued last year at £325m.

     
  70.  
    'Who benefits?' BBC Radio 4 Today

    Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie is sure that people aren't feeling richer. "I don't think we can dispute there is a recovery, but the question is who benefits from that recovery," he tells Today. He certainly doesn't accept that the IFS report blows any holes in Labour's arguments about a cost of living crisis.

     
  71.  
    07:24: Household incomes

    Big discussion about the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report on household incomes. Whether the average household income is back to levels they were at before the financial downturn struck. One one measure, for the over 60s, it is. But for most of the rest of us, it hasn't got there yet. Our story here.

     
  72.  
    @PickardJE Jim Pickard, chief political correspondent for the Financial Times

    tweets: Household incomes returning to pre-crisis levels, more or less. Labour's campaign theme for March? Cost of living crisis.

     
  73.  
    07:15: 'Sounds a lot' BBC Breakfast

    Mr Farage says his new immigration system would cost "a few hundred million pounds" which "sounds a lot" but would bring huge savings in the long run.

     
  74.  
    07:14: 'Some exceptions' BBC Breakfast

    UKIP suggests someone coming in to Britain should earn £27,000 or more. But when it's put to Mr Farage that a nurse's starting salary is much less than that, he admits: "I do accept that with the health service there will be some exceptions."

     
  75.  
    07:12: Skilled workers BBC Breakfast

    Nigel Farage has moved on to BBC Breakfast. He says last year 27,000 people came into the UK who would have passed UKIP's points system. He seems happy with that as long as all of that number don't claim benefits for five years and have health insurance.

     
  76.  
    07:06: 'Wages have struggled' BBC Radio 4

    Over on Today - which you can listen to via the live tab above - Paul Johnson, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says incomes have "taken an awfully long time to recover", but the government has made a "reasonably significant effort at reducing the deficit". More on the IFS's view of wages in our story here.

     
  77.  
    07:01: 'Back to normality'

    Nigel Farage has done his first interview of the day on Good Morning Britain. He was pressed about his immigration policy. He said the 50,000 mentioned by Steven Wolfe wasn't about net migration it was "about the number of foreign workers" arriving in Britain. He says the British public are "bored of targets", and he wants to get immigration "back to normality", which traditionally "varied between about 20 and 50,000 a year". He sounds slightly exasperated when it's put to him that, actually, that still sounds like a target.

     
  78.  
    @BarrySheerman Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield

    tweets: Selling off the family silver in a panic as Election approaches Royal Mail East Coast & now Eurostar! What a Govt!

     
  79.  
    Gawain Towler, UKIP communications officer

    tweets: @Nigel_Farage waiting to go on Good Morning Britain @ukip

    Nigel Farage

     
  80.  
    @WalesPolitics BBC Wales Politics

    tweets: More Welsh voters think David Cameron (34%) would make a better PM than Ed Miliband (23%), according to a BBC Wales/ICM poll published today

     
  81.  
    06:48: Policy muddle? Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    You might say this is just policy nerds at Westminster trawling over the details of UKIP policy, but the danger, I think, for them is that this moves from a policy muddle story to a policy shambles story. It could become an issue about UKIP's credibility and how serious a party they are, and that does have the potential to damage them. It also follows a bit of a tangle they got into over the NHS a short time ago about whether they favour a private insurance model or not.

    I wonder - and we saw it to some extent with the Greens last week - if the smaller parties are beginning to sweat a bit now the focus is really on them. They are beginning to find it a bit tougher.

    Despite all the talk of this election being different from any before, I wonder whether actually this might really end up being the usual big clash between the two big parties on the two big issues, the economy and the NHS.

     
  82.  
    06:41: Party politics
    David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Theresa May

    We stand corrected. Having said Theresa May seemed unmoved by whatever joke David Cameron and Nick Clegg were enjoying yesterday before the Mexican president's visit, we've found evidence to the contrary. Here she is having a ball with the deputy PM.

     
  83.  
    06:38: Lib Dem drug policy
    Nick Clegg

    Nick Clegg is due to give a speech today on drugs. He'll say a future Lib Dem government would take control of drugs policy out of the hands of the Home Office and give it to the Department of Health. He will also pledge to end the "nonsense" of jailing people for possessing small amount of drugs for their personal use, and say young people should not be penalised in later life because of a criminal record.

     
  84.  
    @YouGov YouGov, polling firm

    tweets: Update: Cons lead at 2 - Latest YouGov / Sun results 3rd Mar - Con 36%, Lab 34%, LD 5%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%; APP -19

     
  85.  
    06:32: Target ditched? Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News

    Nigel Farage is expected to say his party wants a new migration control commission to get net migration down. We already know it also wants to give commonwealth citizens the same rights to come here as EU workers. And if it was in government, UKIP would have a points-based system, like in Australia, to only allow in highly skilled workers that the economy needs.

    But the idea of a cap - or target - on how many can come appears to have been ditched. Having seen the Conservatives get into trouble after they spectacularly failed to deliver on a firm pledge to get net migration down to the tens of thousands, the UKIP leader says he does not want any 'arbitrary targets'. But just last week the party's spokesman on the issue, Steven Woolfe talked about an annual gross target of 50 thousand workers. It's something the party has touted as policy for months.

     
  86.  
    06:27: UKIP immigration speech

    On to today's news. Campaign-wise, UKIP are currently top of the shop with a big speech coming up later on one of the subjects they're most associated with - immigration. Leader Nigel Farage will promise not to set "arbitrary" immigration targets and instead focus on controlling our borders with an Australian-style points-based visa system. The use of the word "arbitrary" is no doubt a dig at David Cameron who, of course, vowed to get immigration down below 100,000 at the last general election, but has been unable to do so.

     
  87.  
    06:22: Front pages

    Here's our digest of today's newspapers. In terms of politics, the Sun claims to have a Budget exclusive, saying George Osborne is planning to cut the price of a pint again. Elsewhere, the Times' front page carries a big picture of David Cameron and Nick Clegg in stitches at an event on Tuesday. Whatever the joke was, Theresa May, pictured behind them stony-faced, doesn't seem to get it.

     
  88.  
    06:18: Labour demands more on abuse

    Labour want to go further and make it mandatory for any allegation of abuse to be reported. They accused the government of "a missed opportunity", but others, including, former Conservative children's minister Tim Loughton, warned against Labour's idea, saying it could put victims off telling anyone about their suffering.

     
  89.  
    06:16: Child sexual abuse

    Tuesday was dominated by the issue of child sexual abuse as a damning report into the treatment of girls in Oxfordshire was published. David Cameron held a meeting at No 10 and announced that in future, teachers, councillors and social workers in England and Wales who fail to protect children could face up to five years in jail.

     
  90.  
    06:11: Good morning

    Hello and welcome to a fresh Wednesday's political coverage. Victoria King and Matthew West will bring you all the action, reaction and analysis in text and you'll be able to watch and listen to all the main BBC political programmes, from Today and Breakfast through to Newsnight and Today in Parliament. Don't forget you can get in touch by emailing politics@bbc.co.uk or via social media @bbcpolitics. Here's how Tuesday unfolded.

     

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