The Chanceller gave Middle England a tax fillip but offered less for those striving for a greener Britain
It’s not even 24 hours since Gordon Brown packed away his red briefcase for what will almost certainly be the last time, and the Budget is already looking like a sleight-of-hand.
One the one hand you have 2p off basic rate income tax, but on the other you have the abolition of the 10p starting rate. Mainstream corporation tax is cut, but smaller companies will pay more. Truly, the Gord giveth, and the Gord taketh away.
But what happened to the environment? The PBR led us to believe the Iron Chancellor was soon to be reinventing himself as the Carbon Free Chancellor, but there was precious little in the way of green incentives here, especially for the built environment.
Zero stamp duty on zero carbon homes worth up to £500,000 until 2012 may make them more attractive to home-buyers, but it still fails to address the problem that no-one really knows what a zero carbon home is yet. And given the rate of inflation in the housing market, will you be able to buy any home for under £500,000 come 2012?
Green incentives for business are still very thin on the ground, and no amount of hazy promises of increases for green grants and investment in advice will change that. After the lacklustre Climate Change Bill, industry was expecting environmental leadership which it did not get.
Because the truth is this was not a Green Budget but a Brown Budget. Hit by accusations of Stalinism and polls that showed him 15% behind Cameron, Brown needed some positive headlines – and nothing gets the Sun readers onside like putting money back in their pockets.
If, as is expected, Brown moves next door when Blair departs in the summer, he’ll want everyone to remember him as the Chancellor who gave a little bit back before he left. But he might find that convincing the electorate he can make an effective Prime Minister is a sleight-of-hand too far.