Brown woos grey vote

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The Chancellor Gordon Brown today set out to woo the grey vote with a Budget promise of council tax refunds and free local bus travel for all pensioners.

The Chancellor Gordon Brown today set out to woo the grey vote with a Budget promise of council tax refunds and free local bus travel for all pensioners.

In an openly electioneering Budget statement, the Chancellor delighted Labour MPs by announcing a £200 rebate on the council tax for the elderly.

He coupled it with a promise that a re-elected Labour Government would bring in legislation for all pensioners and the disabled to travel free by bus from next year.

Mr Brown also said this autumn pensioners would once again receive a £200 winter fuel allowance, with £300 for the over-80s.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor's announcement that the inheritance tax threshold was to be increased by £12,000 was today branded as not enough.

Mr Brown said the current £263,000 threshold at which estates become liable for inheritance tax (IHT) would be raised to £275,000 in April, rising to £285,000 next year and £300,000 in 2007. The move will mean that 94% of estates will pay no inheritance tax.

But the announcment received a lukewarm reception from many within the industry who wanted to see a greater increase.

Glenn Collins, head of advisory services at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, said: "The Chancellor's decision simply to raise the inheritance tax threshold from its current level of £263,000 to £275,000 fails to go far enough. The threshold should now stand at £390,000 if it had been increased in line with house price inflation and we are disappointed that the Government has not chosen that figure."

The Conservative leader Michael Howard warned that the Government's spending plans meant that taxes would have to go up again if Labour was re-elected.

Mr Howard said: "The simple fact is that if Labour get in again, taxes go up again. This Budget is not about what's good for our country. It's all about the interests of the Labour Party."

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