Budget is full of 'empty promises'

THERE was very little praise from local politicians for Alastair Darling's last budget of the current Westminster Government.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 31st March 2010, 12:27 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2010, 12:27 pm

Borders MP Michael Moore accused the Government of empty promises, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont said it would hammer hard working families in the region, and South of Scotland MSPs Christine Grahame (SNP) and Jim Hume (Lib Dem) both criticised the petrol tax hike.

"With this Budget the Government were trying to have their cake and eat it too - bringing forward measures that promise much but mean little and do nothing to address some of the fundamental economic problems affecting people in the Borders today," said Mr Moore.

"The delay in fuel duty increase is welcome but will come as scant consolation to those people in rural areas already paying well over the odds for their fuel. The increase in the stamp duty threshold is welcome but will offer nothing for the many people unable to buy a house due to the failure of the banks to lend on reasonable terms.

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"On some of the big issues the Chancellor of the Exchequer was silent. We heard nothing on the need to reform an unfair tax system that forces the poorest families to pay more of their income in tax than the bankers who helped ruin the economy.

"We heard nothing of substance on how the Government will force the banks to meet the lending targets introduced as a condition of public support.

"This was the Government's last chance before the election to show people in the Borders that they have a credible plan to get the UK on the path towards sustainable economic growth. What is now clear is that Labour are out of ideas and out of time."

Equally critical, John Lamont said: "This is a budget which hammers hard working families in the Borders, and does little to sort out the country's economic mess.

"This budget was an opportunity for the Government to face up to the realities of our terrible economic situation. Unfortunately, it was wholly focussed on addressing Labour's electoral problems rather than sorting out Britain's dire economic situation.

"Rather than scrapping the planned fuel tax rises, the Chancellor has simply delayed most of the increases until after the election. This tax on motorists will hit rural areas like the Borders hardest, where there is far less in the way of public transport alternatives than there is in the big cities.

"The decision to freeze all income bands will lead to people paying more tax on their earnings. This is a classic stealth tax and will hit hard working families across the Borders.

"I am also very disappointed that there is no commitment to support the development of broadband in the Borders, nor is there any mention of the much needed improvements to the A1.

"As well as the measures announced in the budget, the Labour Government have already announced plans to raise National Insurance contributions from the beginning of April. The private sector is the key to the recovery, both nationally and here in the Borders, and this tax on jobs is a blow to local firms."

"The budget was nothing new really. It was just more of the debt, waste and taxes that got us into this mess in the first place."

SNP MSP Christine Grahame has condemned Chancellor Alistair Darling's decision to continue with the 3p tax hike in fuel duty.

In the budget he announced a 1% increase from April 1, another 1% in October and a further 1% on January 1, 2011. The fuel duty escalator means that in addition fuel prices will rise by 1p above inflation between 2011 and 2014.

Ms Grahame said: "This is just smoke and mirrors from the Labour Chancellor, he has tried to disguise the hike by staggering the increase, but between now and next year fuel duty will still increase by 3p.

"Members of the public in the Borders are not that gullible - they will know the price of a Labour government every time they go to a fuel pump."

Ms Grahame added that every rise in fuel duty also impacts on hauliers.

"The people who transport almost every good in our shops have had their costs increased again by the UK Government and that extra pressure on their businesses could mean price rises for us in the shopping aisles.

"At this time we need budget that supports families and businesses, not punishes them."

Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume hit out at the Chancellor, calling him out of touch, saying that he's 'unable to grasp the simple concept that people are struggling to cope with rising fuel prices'.

Jim said: "The Chancellor has failed to listen to thousands of people across the South of Scotland who are crying out for fairer fuel duty.

"The increase in fuel duty is a further blow to the region and regardless of how it's packaged, a phased three pence increase in fuel duty is still an increase.

"The Government has missed an opportunity to target fuel duty reductions at rural communities where driving is a necessity, not a luxury."