George Osborne’s fourth Budget was his most positive so far as the defiant Chancellor promised a ‘prosperous, solvent and free’ country.
There was a moment in the middle of his speech when Mr Osborne caught a frog in his throat, but after coughing and spluttering, he ploughed on – essentially epitomising his plan of action.
He vowed to stay on course with his vision for Britain’s economic recovery and put right what he believes went badly wrong under the previous government.
Although growth is minimal and much slower than expected, on the surface there were enough positives to cling to, in the headline figures at least.
The Tories have long been criticised for not doing enough to help the poorest, but Mr Osborne went some way to dispelling such suggestions by raising the income tax threshold to £10,000.
Meanwhile, for drinkers, a pint will be that little bit cheaper.
For workers, the cut in employers’ National Insurance means employment is on the horizon for many, as Mr Osborne promised 600,000 more jobs this year.
For drivers, the much-feared planned fuel duty hike has been scrapped.
In the commercial world, the Chancellor declared Britain open for business – investors will be encouraged by the forthcoming tax relief for social enterprise projects and the cut in Corporation Tax to 20%.
Significantly, the rate will be the lowest in the western world, and among the most attractive within the G20.
Mr Osborne also allocated £3bn to infrastructure – good news for the industry in what is a difficult time, as the Tories push towards an ‘aspiration nation’.
There were subtle pointers towards successful governments of the past too – the “Help to Buy” scheme promising 20% towards deposits on new homes bears more than an echo of Margaret Thatcher’s “Right to Buy” scheme.
William Beveridge and Clement Attlee will no doubt have supported the ‘cradle to grave’ notions of tax-free childcare and the bringing forward of the single flat-rate pension by one year.
Of course, no Budget is without its challenges and today’s announcement is no different – far from it in fact.
Labour leader Ed Miliband branded it a ‘downgraded Budget for a downgraded Chancellor’ and pounced scathingly on the fact original forecasts for growth and debt reduction are not being met.
The debt level is yet to peak and is not set to do so until 2015/16 – a blow to the Government who after three years are still struggling to meet their arguably over-ambitious targets.
In addition, borrowing – at £114bn this year, £6bn more than anticipated – and the all-important deficit are still posing problems for Mr Osborne, despite both continuing to fall.
Predictably there was no mention of any sufferers under this Budget, but having admitted it will be ‘fiscally neutral’ the Chancellor knows some sections of society will miss out.
Who this will be remains to be seen, so any optimism taken from today should be met with caution, particularly considering the economy’s delicate state.
Please note: Opinions expressed above are those of the journalist and do not necessarily represent the views of Mancunian Matters.
Image courtesy of M.Holland, via Wiki Commons, with thanks