In common with Simon Hughes, I too drive a London taxi, and no reasonable offer will be refused.
This is the coalition Government’s fourth Budget—a Budget determined to stay the course and fill the sink-hole of debt left to us by the last Administration. Thanks to our actions, the deficit is down by a third—from 11% of gross domestic product under Labour to a forecast 7% this year. It is set to fall even lower to as little as 2% by 2017-18. All the while, we have kept interest rates at a record low and created 1.25 million new jobs while reducing the number of workless households by 250,000.
Local government, which accounts for a quarter of all public spending, is doing its bit to help to pay off Labour’s deficit—and the result? Since the general election, according to the Local Government Association’s own polling, residents’ satisfaction with their councils has increased. Ipsos MORI has found that two thirds of residents have not noticed any changes in the quality of council services. Well-run councils are making sensible savings, protecting front-line services and keeping council tax down. Of course more savings need to be made to pay off Labour’s debt, but we are on the side of people with gumption who protect and enhance public services, so this Budget is about rewarding aspiration and boosting growth; it is about helping businesses to create jobs, and about giving a leg up to wannabe home owners.
The housing market is critical to Britain’s economic success, yet one of the most tragic effects of Labour’s toxic legacy was its impact on that market. Whereas Margaret Thatcher gave a generation the hope of owning their own homes, Labour crushed their dreams, leaving us with a planning system bogged down by arcane rules and regulations, house building falling to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s, rising prices, falling mortgages, and tenants with no hope of buying. A lost generation of people were forced to stay where they were, living their best years in the hope that their lottery numbers might come up or the bank of mum and dad would bail them out. This is truly a toxic legacy.