We take a look at today's budget announcements - the last before the General Election - and use NatCen's research to shed light on how the public are likely to react.
We will add more to this blog as we digest the Budget.
Public priorities for extra spending
Since we launched the British Social Attitudes survey in 1983, health and education have consistently been the public’s top priorities for extra government spending. This Budget did not address those issues, with the Chancellor focusing on help for industry in the 'Northern Powerhouses' and improving public transport, with investment in the HS3 rail link.
Tax and spend
The Chancellor announced plans to create a national surplus of £23bn by 2020 by cutting public spending – part of which would be used to fund tax cuts under a Conservative-led government. British Social Attitudes shows us that this proposal may be out of step with the public. In 2013, only 7% favoured less tax and spend, with the majority (55%) preferring to keep tax and spend at the same level.
Today’s Budget also set out plans to introduce measures to crack down on tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and multinational companies. This move is likely to be well-received, as British Social Attitudes survey has shown us that in 2013, 60% of the public agreed that there is one rule for the rich and one for the poor.
One of the pre-released announcements from this year's Budget was that existing pensioners would be allowed to swap their annuity for a lump-sum payment from April 2016. Unsurprisingly, the most recent Family Resources Survey found that the higher an individual’s weekly income, the more likely they are to contribute to a pension.
The price of a pint of beer is set to be lowered by 1p – the third year in a row that beer duty has been reduced. Similarly, a 2p drop in duty for cider and Scotch Whisky was also announced. The most recent Health Survey for England shows that a large minority of people – a third of men and nearly half of women – had not drunk alcohol in the past week.
The end of tax returns
As of 2020, there will no longer be paper tax returns, with George Osborne today confirming plans to switch to digital tax accounts which can be updated in "real time". This marks an extension to the government's digital switchover which already includes applications for welfare and tax credits. In 2012, when we last asked the question, 58% of people had already made applications for benefits or tax credits online, or were willing to do so in the future.
Saving the best for last...
One of the measures that the Chancellor boasts will help almost everyone in the country is the introduction of a personal savings allowance. From April 2016, savers will no longer pay tax on the first £1000 of interest in any savings account. Higher-rate tax payers will receive a smaller allowance of £500, and anyone earning over £150,000 will have no personal savings allowance.
Figures from the Family Resources Survey tell us that while a fifth of people have savings and investments worth £20,000 or over, a third of us have no savings at all.
The Family Resources Survey also tells us that 41% of all households have ISAs. Unsurprisingly, the more you earn, the more likely you are to have a savings account.