Budget '97: This is not a good Budget for business

The Economy

And er ... is that it? In the end this was not quite the radical "mini maxi" Budget anticipated, nor did it deliver the degree of fiscal tightening the City and industry think necessary to dampen the consumer boom and head off further steep rises in interest rates. Certainly it wasn't the pro-business Budget promised, however you cut it.

Outside the windfall profits tax and the abolition of tax credits on dividends, which will not have any short-term impact on consumer demand, the degree of fiscal tightening in the economy is peanuts. The measures on stamp duty and mortgage interest relief ought to kill off the resurgent housing boom, but there's not much else to mop up the more than pounds 30bn of building society and insurance company windfalls.

Despite the stock market's rather confused reaction, this was not a good Budget for business. Gordon Brown's business-friendly rhetoric is not matched by the figures, which show that the great bulk of the fiscal tightening comes not from the personal sector but from companies and the City.

The reductions in corporation tax are little more than a smokescreen; the effect is to give back less than half what is being taken away through the abolition of the tax credit on dividends. The Chancellor claimed that taken together, the two measures would discourage companies from paying out their profits in dividends, helping to boost direct investment in the process.

Well, possibly, but it is by no means certain. Another very certain consequence, however, will be to raise the cost of equity capital and pensions provision at a time when borrowing costs are also going to be rising strongly to dampen down the boom. Exporters can expect little relief from the strong pound.

As for more generous capital allowances, Mr Brown is surely old enough to know that this is a measure which in practice will do very little to boost investment. There are no quick fixes here. Only a prolonged record of economic stability and low inflation will change the investment habits of British industry.

The magic wand of capital allowances can sometimes make a difference at the margin, but most of the time they don't. Their greatest benefit is to companies which are going to invest anyway. For them, better tax allowances are just icing on the cake. And for others, they all too often become just a form of tax avoidance.

Then there's the British film industry. Now here's a measure for Labour- voting luvvies if ever there was one. Unfortunately, we've been here before. Last time round the introduction of 100 per cent write-offs for films became a tax dodger's charter.

Nor was this quite the Budget of restraint we had been led to believe it might be on the spending side either. The welfare measures are paid for by the windfall profits tax, but the big surprise is in health and education, where extra spending commitments of pounds 2.2bn a year have been entered into.

Since this new spending is not offset by reductions elsewhere, or not that we know of anyway, it comes pretty close to breaching Mr Brown's pledge to stick to the previous government's spending total for the next two years. The fact that the extra money is to come out of reserves doesn't make it any better.

By opting for a four-year assessment period for levying the windfall tax, the Treasury does seem to have alighted on a reasonably balanced way of distributing the burden. The tax falls disproportionately on the electricity companies, which seems reasonable given that this is where the greatest excesses occurred. The exception is poor old BG Group, which does not deserve the battering it gets.

But then this never was going to be a good tax, however it was levied. Mr Brown and his spin doctors have been clever in massaging expectations of a fiscally responsible, pro-business Budget. He has actually delivered neither, or rather, to the extent that he has achieved the former, it has been at the expense of the latter.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleChildren leave in tears as Santa is caught smoking and drinking
Arts and Entertainment
A host of big name acts recorded 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' in London on Saturday
musicCharity single tops chart
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall has become the eighth celebrity to leave Strictly Come Dancing
tv
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
News
i100
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Sarah Bibby and Robert Allinson, with their children Charlotte and Ethan, confronted the ‘difficult’ questions’ posed by making a will

Simon Read: There may be trouble ahead for cohabiting couples who don’t make a will

Your children have it all, your partner gets nothing

Halfords is gearing up for Christmas

Bargain Hunter: Find the deals that have real value beneath the Black Friday hype

Halfords is gearing up for Christmas

Fields of dreams: venture capital trusts help young companies to grow, potentially delivering big returns for investors

Mark Dampier: You take a chance but VCTs have sorted the wheat from the chaff

Fields of dreams: venture capital trusts help young companies to grow, potentially delivering big returns for investors 

The FCA has imposed £1.1bn in fines on five banks over forex trading practices

Simon Read: Catch 22 for borrowers who are turned down by banks

There are many reasons for people to turn to high-cost credit, but being turned down by their banks for a loan is one

The battle between the banks to attract more current account customers moved up a level this week when Yorkshire Bank (and Clydesdale Bank) launched a market- leading £150 switching incentive.

Money Insider: Would £150 make you switch banks?

The £150 incentive from Yorkshire and Clydesdale runs from now until 28 February next year, but you must use the official Current Account Switching Service (CASS) and close your existing account to qualify

The short slope that takes women all the way down to living on the streets

For the rising number of homeless women, the struggle is compounded by health problems and by losing their children

If you’ve got a card in your wallet that charges a low standard interest rate, there’s less financial impact if you can’t repay your full statement balance.

Money Insider: Save money with the right credit card

Research from Sainsbury’s Bank Credit Cards this week revealed that 15 per cent of people making a large purchase on their plastic didn’t use one with 0 per cent interest on purchases

Last week was hangover time, when Stock Spirits, a vodka producer, distilled a profit warning that sent its shares crashing more than 25 per cent. (image: Rex Features)

No Pain No Gain: Vodka causes a hangover as shares in Stock Spirits slump

Last week was hangover time, when Stock Spirits, a vodka producer, distilled a profit warning that sent its shares crashing more than 25 per cent

Investment melting pot: the price of gold may have fallen but Artemis Strategic Assets believes its value cannot be debased

Mark Dampier: Strong returns can be found if you go the opposite way to the crowds

Investment melting pot: the price of gold may have fallen but Artemis Strategic Assets believes its value cannot be debased

The Bank of England announced that interest rates will stay at 0.5 per cent

Simon Read: Banks can’t blame the economy for their low rates

Interest rates are currently as low as 0.1 per cent

The schemes work by using collective power to negotiate better deals with gas and electricity suppliers

Simon Read: Don’t blow a fuse with your energy supplier, just switch

The energy watchdog Ofgem has slammed Scottish Power, while Citizens Advice reports a string of complaints about it

John Lush from Hampshire got into debt with payday lenders and had the help of a debt management charity to clear the £20,000 he owed

Simon Read: The only place for debt is out in the open, don't be afraid to ask for advice

John Lush from Hampshire got into debt with payday lenders and had the help of a debt management adviser to clear the £20,000 he owed

Seven Families campaign aims to raise awareness of financial damage caused by illness or disability

The campaign is handing financial help to seven families for a year, along with support and advice in how to get their careers back on track
The 10th birthday of broadband in Britain was marked with a projection in 2010. But the infrastructure is still being rolled out

Families pay the price of superfast broadband

Bills are going up for households around the UK as providers invest in better infrastructure. Emma Lunn explains why - and what to do

How to cut the cost of car insurance: A five-step guide to getting a better deal

Premiums are on the rise again but motorists don't have to take a back seat on the price of their cover, says Rob Griffin
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Reach Volunteering: Trustee – PR& Marketing, Social Care, Commercial skills

    Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Age Concern Slough a...

    Reach Volunteering: Charity Treasurer

    Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Crossroads Care is s...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000: SThree: We consistently strive to be ...

    Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

    £50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

    Day In a Page

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin