Huntingdonshire election panel’s verdict on Chancellor’s budget

Rachel Pask Election panelist

Rachel Pask Election panelist - Credit: Archant

Targeting tax-avoiding corporations, increased funding for mental health services and a new Help to Buy scheme were among the most popular aspects of the final budget of the current Government, according to members of the Hunts Post election panel.

Election Panellist Helen Haynes, from Needingworth,

Election Panellist Helen Haynes, from Needingworth, - Credit: Archant

Here’s what they said about Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s announcement on Wednesday (March 18).

Student Rachel Pask said: “I was pleased with the attempts to prevent further tax avoidance, especially by multi-national corporations, for example the new Diverted Profits Tax, which is aimed at multi-nationals that shift their profits offshore.

“I think attempts to combat tax avoidance are crucial as it is unjust that some large companies and some of the wealthiest individuals are able to pay so little tax compared to the rest of the country, despite often using the services provided by said taxes.

“Another redeeming factor is the promise to expand mental health services for children as recent studies have shown that mental health issues amongst children and teenagers have been neglected in recent years. However at the moment little has been said about how this will be achieved.

Election panellist Michael Boyles, from Ramsey,

Election panellist Michael Boyles, from Ramsey, - Credit: Archant

“I was disappointed with the lack of attention to education. Despite claiming that funding would be provided for students to do a PhD in research fields, little has been done to improve education opportunities.

“Although funding to PhD students appears to be beneficial, these students must first complete their undergraduate degree, and students from less wealthy backgrounds may find it hard to do so without increased financial aid. Moreover with most tuition fees at £9,000, fewer students may feel inclined to continue on with a PhD or Masters as it will add to the already high amounts of debt they will be required to pay back.”

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Housewife Helen Haynes said: “A lot depends on whether the Conservatives get voted back in May with a majority.

“Although the NHS was famously missing from the budget, I was relieved to see that there was £1.25bn for mental health services. This vital sector appears to have been overlooked in the past.

Election panelist Bob Mullineaux, from Great Stukeley,

Election panelist Bob Mullineaux, from Great Stukeley, - Credit: Archant

“I was also happy to see a tax being put on the diverted profits of multi-national firms moving profits artificially offshore as this only seems fair.

“There was a little help for first time buyers with the Help to Buy Individual Savings Account (ISA), but it didn’t seem to amount to much.

“Although I was pleased to see that petrol duty wasn’t raised (our prices in this area are some of the highest in the country), I wasn’t sure why the duty on some alcohols were lowered. Maybe it was meant to be a crowd pleaser, but I would have thought with the NHS crying out for more doctors, nurses and midwives, the government should not be letting valuable income from tax be lost in this way.

“Overall, as a family, we will probably benefit from the various tax changes that the statement held, however, I am extremely concerned that we didn’t see more money being made available for the NHS and particularly the care of our elderly.”

Election panelist Tony Larkins,

Election panelist Tony Larkins, - Credit: Archant

Retired public servant Mike Boyles said: “This budget has marginal benefits for us; the introduction of measures against tax avoidance is most welcome, as are the benefits to savers and first time house buyers. Also, as a ‘budget for votes’ intended to appeal to those ‘silver-haired’ voters able to save, people on middle incomes, and those young people in work who are able to save as prospective first-time home buyers, this is quite a successful formula.

“However, there is still great uncertainty about how the promised savings will be achieved and at what cost to services.

“Further, what about the predicted recurring budget cuts expected until the last year of the next parliament? How will these impact? It seems we’ll have to make a choice at the next election between the promise of faster national debt reduction with the Conservatives, or the vague promise of less austerity with Labour; both of the main parties are likely to be dependent on some form of coalition with other parties in order to execute their respective policies.

“We still have a large number of people, particularly amongst the young, on low wages and/or zero-hours contracts, who are effectively disqualified by their circumstances from experiencing the benefits now afforded to old and young savers.

Election panelist Grace Corn, from St Ives,

Election panelist Grace Corn, from St Ives, - Credit: Archant

“What about the economically dispossessed? Reductions in VAT would have been a fairer way of distributing some of the sweeteners. What will incentivise the economically disadvantaged to participate in the electoral process?”

Retired computer consultant Bob Mullineaux said the budget would have little effect on his wife and himself. He added: “I liked a new Help to Buy ISA for first time buyers, a £1,000 allowance on which interest income will not be taxed, personal income tax allowance being raised to £10,800 and freezing of extension of Fuel Duty until the autumn.

“I did not like the chancellor boasting that employment has reached its highest ever level, without differentiating between zero-hours contracts, part-time and full-time employment. The Department of Communities and Local Government has produced a new National Planning Policy Framework document of 50 pages, which replaces more than 1,300 pages of inherited policy in 44 separate documents, an 84 per cent reduction. Based on that, the budget should not be more than five pages.”

Businessman Tony Larkins said: “The budget was favourable in the main and stock markets rose following the announcement. With a deficit to reduce and an electorate to please, it was never going to be too generous, although there was something for the young, old and businesses.

“However, changes to cash ISAs could influence some to use them more like a current account, while headline grabbing, it could leave many missing out on a potential year’s stock market growth, which may not have been the intention.

“Reduction in pension funds will hit many professionals, with senior NHS and local Government employees being hit the hardest, so I am not sure some of the changes were thought through sufficiently. Of the points I was hoping for, there was some tax simplification and a standard 20 per cent Corporation Tax charge.

“There will be no real changes affecting me except a little less tax to pay. In business, however, it could generate more interest as clients seek clarification of the changes and how best to capitalise on them.”

Student Grace Corn added: “I was happy to see that the budget included the long-suggested ‘Google Tax’ which will see large multinational companies taxed at the rate of 25 per cent (five percentage points higher than the standard corporation tax rate) on ‘diverted profits’. This will prevent companies such Google, Amazon, and Starbucks from making money in the UK and sending it overseas where it can be taxed at a lower rate, claiming to run their UK operations at a loss in order to avoid paying corporation tax. ‘Let the message go out: this country’s tolerance for those who will not pay their fair share of taxes has come to an end,’ Osborne said.

“I was also pleased to see that there would be more money put towards mental heathcare. The Autumn Statement of 2014 committed £150million over five years to caring for young people with eating disorders and funding to expand pilots testing new ways to support those with mental health problems to return to work. To go further, Budget 2015 announced a £1.25billion package of additional investment.

“I am disappointed that there is to be no change on student finance, or that George Osborne decided to ignore the 208,000-strong petition calling for the VAT on tampons to be scrapped.

“Sanitary products are currently taxed at 5 per cent (as a luxury product), while items such as flapjacks have no VAT at all. Quite frankly its a ‘bloody outrage’, and I think the Chancellor should have at least acknowledged the issue in his speech.”