George Osborne beat the expectations game today. His abolition of the fuel duty
escalator for this parliament should — Elizabeth Taylor and Libya permitting — get him the front pages he wants.
Aside from the headline measures, I think there are three stories that will run on from this Budget. First, the government is accepting the Hutton report’s recommendations on public sector
pensions in full. This puts the ball firmly back in the unions court, who had previously accused the government of trying to cherry pick from it. Second, the requirement that all planning decisions
will have to be reached within one year will have a big impact. A huge number of projects get held up in the planning system for years, so this is a welcome move. Finally, there’s the
consultation on merging the operation of income tax and national insurance. If the government goes ahead with this, it will make tax in this country far more transparent, giving people a better
idea of what they already pay in tax which, I would expect, create popular pressure for lower direct taxes.