WEDNESDAY’s Budget, for “the most serious global economic turmoil for 60 years”, sought to keep ordinary and increasingly unemployed people afloat while nursing the economy back into life.
The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, had seen last year’s predictions of a 2.5-per-cent increase in the economy turn to a 3.5-per-cent contraction. Despite this, he announced the first of three “carbon budgets”, aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in the UK by 34 per cent by 2020.
He allocated £90 million for a carbon-capture scheme; £375 million over two years to support energy efficiencies in public buildings, businesses, and households; £70 million for community schemes; and £405 million for low-carbon industries. There were increases in fuel duty and landfill tax.
A Christian Aid climate scientist, Dr Alison Doig, called the Budget a “wasted opportunity”. The goal of cutting emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 was “not even adequate”.
Mr Darling announced a scheme to enable grandparents to gain National Insurance credits towards their state pension when caring for their grandchildren (Comment). There is a £2000 scrappage deal for ten-year-old cars. The stamp- duty exemption on properties under £175,000 is extended by another year. And Job Centre Plus offices get an extra £1.7 billion.
Child Tax Credit is to go up by £20; disabled children will get an extra £100-200 in their trust funds each year. There are to be 50,000 traineeships offered for young people in the care sector, and funding to create 100,000 new jobs “in socially useful activity”.
For charities, there is a new £20-million hardship fund, and the promise of improved Gift Aid and a Social Investment Wholesale Bank.
Is the Budget green enough?