CHANCELLOR George Osborne delivered a Budget yesterday for what he termed “makers, doers and savers”.
Keeping an eye on next year’s General Election, he produced a crowd pleaser to ensure companies and entrepreneurs received a package of incentives, while he addressed the plight of savers by freeing up restrictions on ISA allowances and personal pensions.
He also ensured drinkers will be happy by knocking a penny off a pint of beer for the second year running, freezing duties on cider and Scotch whisky and scrapping the price escalator on alcohol altogether.
And even bingo players will benefit with duty on operators’ profits halved to 10 per cent.
Justin Minkah, general manager of Gala Bingo Oxford based at the city’s Ozone Leisure Park, described it as “a great result.”
He added: “Most of the saving will be used for reinvestment.”
Low income workers will also paying no tax on the first £10,500 of their earnings from next year, while “middle income” earners will see the threshold before they pay a higher rate of tax extended to £42,285.
Paying the price are foreign property investors with the introduction of a swingeing 15 per cent stamp duty on those from outside the UK buying a property worth more than £500,000 here and people avoiding tax by keeping money offshore.
Bob Bradley, president of the Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It was a good Budget. There were a lot of things for consumers which will be electrorally popular.
“The focus on manufacturing was also good as we need to rebalance the economy. Grants for apprentices were also welcome, as was the abolition of National Insurance payments for employees under 21, although I still see it as a tax on employers.”
David Rickwood, head of personal tax at Shaw Gibbs accountants in Summertown, said: “It has been a good Budget for Oxfordshire business in terms of investment, exports and promoting technology.
“Pensioners will be able to save into a bond with four per cent interest over three years, a rate you can’t see on the market now.
“Those paying for it include foreign property investors who we have seen a lot of recently in Oxford.”
Trevor Roper, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The Chancellor delivered a Budget to maintain positive momentum in the economy, while incorporating fiscal prudence.
“It offered a clear signal for businesses to grow but all small businesses need to be bold and brave in 2014. There is still more to be done to getthe economy and public finances back on track.”
But not everyone was happy.
The announcement to scrap inheritance tax for emergency workers received a lukewarm response.
“It’s a positive step but it still doesn’t cover the massive costs that emergency workers are experiencing.” said Steve Allen, secretary of the Oxfordshire Fire Brigades’ Union.
Stephanie Ballard with children Max, Lacey and Josh
FULL-TIME mum-of-three Stephanie Ballard agrees that only households where both parents are working should be eligible for a £2,000 childcare tax break.
Mrs Ballard looks after her children Max, eight, Josh, six, and Lacey, three, at her home in Rose Hill, while husband Barry, 28, works as assistant caretaker at Rose Hill Primary School.
This means that the family would not be eligible for this tax break.
But on whether families who have one parent at work should benefit, Mrs Ballard said: “If one person is at home, no it shouldn’t be given.
“I have never wanted to put my children in to childcare.
“I think I should look after them.
“If you’re at home you should look after your own children so I agree with that.”
The family lives in private rented accommodation and pays about £155 a month for gas and electricity bills plus council tax and water on top of £910 rent.
They live on £2,200 a month with total outgoings of about £1,600 per month. The family receives child tax credit and working tax credit, but no other benefits.
Mrs Ballard said: “The benefits system has got to be changed.
“I don’t think it is fair that people who live on benefits get it handed to them.
“My husband works 12 hours a day and I stay at home looking after the children.”
NEW pensioner bonds and increased lump sums that retirees can access from their pensions will make no difference to Bill Jupp from Old Marston.
The 82-year-old said: “Unless you can get the base of the pension right, it means nothing. That’s the problem – pensions are so low.”
Mr Jupp believes ongoing austerity measures are making it harder for retirees to survive.
The former worker at car manufacturer Pressed Steel, said: “We live fairly frugally. There’s not a lot to spare. I find it getting very tight.”
He and his wife, Barbara, 78, live in a three-bedroom semi they bought in 1954 and own outright.
“If we didn’t own that, we’d be in dire straits,” he said.
Mr Jupp said higher utilities’ costs were the biggest problem in trying to juggle a tight budget.
Utilities eat up about a quarter of the couple’s combined income, with gas and electricity costing £119 per month, and water £69 per month.
The couple have £20 to £30 a week spare.
Mr Jupp said the Government’s austerity drive had created unnecessary poverty and added: “We’ve got to pay for the ills in London by a casino called the stock exchange, and I resent that.”
FLORIST Rosa Ashby saw nothing beneficial in the Budget for her business.
Mrs Ashby, who runs Rosa’s Flowers in Wesley Walk, Witney, said there was nothing in it for small businesses, particularly retailers struggling to make a living on the high street.
She added: “There were forecasts about the economy doing well but we are not feeling it.
“Politicians don’t understand what it is like for independent small businesses.”
Mrs Ashby said she would have liked to see the 20 per cent rate of VAT cut as an incentive for retailers.
Andy Strong, left, and Martin Bell, directors of engineering firm Endeavour
ANDY Strong, director of Didcot engineering firm Endeavor, said he was pleased with the potential impact of Budget measures on his firm.
As a recently- established manufacturer of a wide range of engineering components for clients including Formula 1 teams and the oil and gas industry, the firm has spent about £400,000 on its plant and equipment and needs to continue investing.
So news the Chancellor has doubled the investment allowance offering tax relief up to £500,000 is welcome.
Research and tax credits will also be increased from 11 per cent to 14.5 per cent while grants to smaller businesses to take on apprentices have been extended.
Mr Strong said: “It has been generally positive for us. It will make us more confident about taking an employee on. In years to come apprentices will be our future employees which is very important, so this announcement is a really good thing.”
Public sector worker
Teacher Ed Finch with son Douglas, seven
CONTINUED pay restraints in the public sector will make it more difficult for school teachers to get by, according to East Oxford’s Ed Finch.
The Larkrise Primary School teacher said: “I’m disappointed that the Government is not offering help to key workers.”
The 42-year-old, who has been teaching for a decade, said: “It’s especially hard for people living in Oxford, which is the least affordable city in the UK.”
He said diminishing real wages and increased demands were prompting many teachers to quit the profession.
A one per cent pay rise awarded to teachers this year did not compensate for cost-of-living increases and higher workloads, with UK primary teachers working an average 59 hours a week, he said.
Also, teachers paid 10 per cent more in pension contributions than three years ago but were receiving less income in retirement, he added.
PUB landlord Trevor Johnson is raising a glass to George Osborne for knocking a penny off a pint in yesterday’s Budget.
The Chancellor also froze tax on Scotch whisky, other spirits and cider and scrapped the alcohol duty escalator, introduced six years ago.
All other alcoholic drinks including wine will see duties rise at the rate of the Retail Prices Index which currently stands at 2.8 per cent.
Mr Johnson, who runs Arkell’s brewery-owned The Talbot Inn in Eynsham, and freehouse The Yeoman in Freeland, said: “From a licensee’s point of view, a penny off a pint of beer is an absolute bonus.
“And the freezing of duty on spirits helps immensely.”
John Champion was not impressed
But John Champion, who runs The Hollybush and The Three Horseshoes pubs in Witney, was not impressed.
He said: “What would have helped publicans more would have been a cut in the VAT rate from 20 to 17 per cent.
“My business rates are going up by £3,000 a year, so these announcements don’t compensate for anything near that.”