Osborne bullish in latest Budget statement

Chancellor George Osborne today delivered what could be his last Budget announcement when he stated Britain “is walking tall again” after five years of Conservative rule.

Osborne focused on Britain’s growing economy – the fastest-growing of any advanced country he stated – and building a northern powerhouse, both impacting his plans for business.

Osborne announced a tax on “diverted profits”, aimed at multinational firms moving profits “artificially offshore”. New measures against tax avoidance and evasion will raise £3.1bn for the British economy, he stated.

As in the Autumn Statement, Osborne said there will be a review of business rates, to help small businesses.

“Businesses large and small have asked for a major review of this tax – that’s what we’ve agreed,” he told the House.

Osborne was keen to promote the idea of a “northern powerhouse”, announcing a provisional agreement to allow Greater Manchester as well as Cambridgshire and Cheshire to keep 100% of additional business rates. “My door is open for other areas who want to proceed as well,” Osborne stated.

However, in his response, opposition leader Ed Miliband said the Conservatives had let down the people of the north and such business rate relief should be countrywide.

Businesses exporting outside the EU will also receive support, Osborne announced, with the support offered to companies exporting to China to double.

Meanwhile, Osborne announced the Tories will abolish the annual tax return altogether if re-elected.

Osborne also showed support for British farmers, who will be allowed to average incomes for tax purposes over five years.

On apprenticeships, the statement reported that more than 2 million people have started apprenticeships since 2010 and announced the apprentice rate would increase by 57p an hour to £3.30.

The national minimum wage, set out yesterday, is to rise by 20p to £5.70 and “will be over £8 by the end of the decade”, Osborne told the House.

Meanwhile personal tax allowance has been raised to £10,800 as of April and another £200 to £11,000 the year after.

However, Miliband contested Osborne’s statement: “On employment more zero-hour contracts than the populations of Leeds, Glasgow and cardiff combined,” he said. “This is a recovery for the few, for a government of the few.”

Miliband said the Chancellor’s Budget would not wash with business, highlighting missed export targets and promises on the minimum wage, dubbing it “the Budget not to be believed”.

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