Life & Culture

'This budget is old Labour'

Experts were divided over Alistair Darling’s budget this week.


Nick Leslau, chairman and chief executive of property company Prestbury Investment Holdings:

“It all feels terribly lame to me. Taxing high earners is so wonderfully old Labour.

“Who, driving a ten-year-old car, can afford a new one to claim their scrap reward? If they can then they probably could have bought a new one without any help. It is all so marginal. I am relieved that huge cuts in public spending are planned, but highly cynical as to whether they will be achieved.

This is not a budget for a country which is six months out of its worst banking crisis in history and which is in potentially one of the worst recessions for many decades.

“At the time of writing, the stock market is unmoved. So am I.”

Ros Altmann, a former government pensions adviser:

“The budget offers very little real help for pensions or pensioners.

“Mr Darling said that grandparents caring for their grandchildren will see that their work counts towards their entitlement for the basic state pension, but this is only for grandparents of a working age. So, if you are over 60, it does not really help you at all.

“It is all about headlines but in reality it won’t make much difference. The budget hasn’t addressed the real problems. We have millions of pensioners that are victims of this crisis, who have lost money and all the government is saying is: ‘We will give you a bit more money but not until later in the year.’

“We need better incentives for people to save in a pension and we haven’t got them. All we have done is taken away some of the incentives for top earners. So overall, they haven’t helped. They have made it worse.”

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors:

“There is probably not a lot to complain about. There were steps which will hopefully provide more support to the property market — first-time buyers in particular.

“The move to guarantee mortgage backed securities — although it is something a lot of people had been expecting for some time — means there will be more money around for first-time buyers who may have been frozen out the market. But there has to be an appetite from investors to buy these securitised products.

“The extension to stamp duty is also good news. Some people wanted the allowance to be increased substantially, but £175,000 will capture the large bulk of first-time buyers. The extra £80m for shared equity mortgage schemes is not going to provide too much help but you have to consider that the government does not have a lot of money to play with.”

Guy Anker, news editor at

“There were clear winners and losers. The winners? Savers. The losers? High earners.

“Savers finally have something to cheer, after the Chancellor upped the amount you can put into Isas, to £10,200. Of this, £5,100, instead of the current £3,600, can be deposited in a cash Isa, a tax-free savings account. You can put £10,200 (minus your cash Isa balance) in a stocks and shares Isa — which has tax benefits. Yet Mr Darling oddly chose to raise the Isa limit in October for over-50s, and next April for everyone else, rather than now.

“From April, those earning over £100,000 will lose some or all of their non-taxable £6,475 allowance. A new top-rate 50 per cent tax on high earners will be introduced then, meaning a £200,000 earner would be about £6,000 worse off. And those earning over £150,000 will lose some of their pension tax relief from 2011.”

The key points

● Scheme to guarantee mortgage-backed securities to boost lending

● Stamp duty holiday for homes up to £175,000 to be extended to end of year

● An extra £80m for shared equity mortgage schemes

● Annual limit for tax-free Isas to rise to more than £10,200 for over-50s this year and for everyone else next year

● Grandparents of working age who care for their grandchildren will see that work counts towards their entitlement for the basic state pension

● The basic state pension will be increased by at least 2.5 per cent

● From next month until March 2010 motorists to get £2,000 discount on new cars if they trade in cars older than 10 years

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