Budget helps keep the UK on a fiscally responsible track

Morning View
Morning View

The budget unveiled yesterday was modest in its scope.

There were no flash giveaways or headline grabbers, ahead of a tight general election.

It would have been irresponsible if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had engaged in such bribes, given the improving but still fragile nature of the economy.

It may in fact be that George Osborne’s budget was deliberately modest in ambition, and that the Conservatives feel that such an approach reflects their reputation for economic competence — something that their polling tells them is a strong point for the party with the country.

Whatever the motivations of yesterday’s budget, it pushed UK economic policy along the right roads in two key areas.

First, Mr Osborne confirmed his plan to cut the deficit.

His £10.9 million boost to Northern Ireland’s finances was welcome, funded by slightly improved finances, but it is a tiny amount in the context of the Province’s vast subvention from the Treasury. That funding from London will drop.

Mr Osborne’s commitment to cutting the deficit is crucial, because such cuts do not even make inroads to Britain’s huge debt pile — they merely reduce the rate at which that debt mountain is growing.

The Liberal Democrats, while they criticise the politics of austerity, have done the right thing by acquiescing in this aim of cutting the deficit and restoring the UK to fiscal stability, as we owe our grandchildren.

The second key trend of coalition government policy, as maintained by this budget, is the determination to make work pay over welfare.

The Liberal Democrats have been the main drivers behind a central plank of that policy: raising income tax thresholds.

It is easy to say that people should not sit around on welfare. The difficult bit is making work feasible for the low paid.

The increased thresholds are costly to the national coffers, but they help do that and are rightly a coalition priority.