With every Budget, the early Cameron emphasis on greenery and General
Well Being not Gross Domestic Product seems a more distant memory. Today’s Budget showed that, to Osborne at least, growth now trumps these more abstract concerns.
So, we saw an announcement that the planning rules would come into force pretty much as planned from next Tuesday. This means that Osborne has simply overridden all the bureaucratic and legal objections from DCLG. Although, I understand that
councils who already have a sufficiently pro-development local plan will have a year to adjust to the new rules.
Sunday trading rules, a classic bit of General Well Being paternalism, are also going on the scrap heap. Suspending them for the Olympics means that the suspension will almost certainly boost
retail activity; justifying a permanent abolition.
Then, there’s a new gas strategy. This will, I understand, be based on the large scale production of shale gas, requiring lots of fracking which won’t please the green lobby. Osborne also
announced a whole tax package designed to encourage more oil and gas production in the North Sea.
Another thing worth noting is that Osborne’s intent is clearly to align the small companies rate and the corporation tax rate. As he said in the speech, a 22p rate ‘puts our
country within sight of a 20 per cent rate of business tax that would align basic rate income tax, the small companies rate and the corporation tax rate.’ Indeed, I’d be shocked if we
don’t hit a 20 percent rate by 2015. It is clearly what Osborne wants and he’ll get there if he just does what he’s done in the last two Budgets, change a planned 1p cut in the
rate into a 2p cut.