Focus on where you live:
Article for the West Sussex County Times
It was intriguing to watch Gordon Brown deliver what will probably be his last Budget speech. He was very pleased with his ‘coup de theatre', unexpectedly lopping 2p off income tax and rather blatantly hoping to wrong foot David Cameron.
But I wonder if trickery will play well for an aspiring Prime Minister. It didn't take long for anyone to spot that the tax giveaways were being funded by whopping rises elsewhere, including on small businesses and the lowest paid, who lose the 10p starting rate of tax.
We shouldn't have been surprised. I well remember Mr Brown's eye-catching introduction of a council tax rebate for pensioners just before the election campaign. I also remember him removing it shortly afterwards.
What did the Budget do for us in West Sussex? Our biggest local concern is probably our hospitals, but the NHS was barely mentioned. The days of Gordon's big spending are over. His overdraft has increased and the tax burden is at a 25-year high. We're going to see some belt tightening over the next few years.
There was no more money for the police, and the Home Office budget is to be frozen. We've already lost 171 Community Support Officers promised for West Sussex. My prediction is that further cuts in policing are around the corner.
And then there was the Lyons report on council tax, quietly buried on Budget day. Those hoping for respite from their bills will be disappointed. Watch out, instead, for a tax on your bins and regular revaluations of your home. The valuation officer is probably sizing up West Sussex with a gleam in his eye already.
Someone told me that a new form of death tax was proposed as well. I thought it was taxed already, but I wouldn't bet against it. If this was a tax-cutting Budget, I'm a Scotsman.
22 March 2007
"I pledge to work hard for everyone in the constituency, to stand up for local people, and to be a strong voice at Westminster for your concerns"