Summer Budget 2015 Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivered the first full fat Tory budget statement in 19 years today by shedding billions of pounds from Blighty's welfare system.
During his statement to the House of Commons, Osbo praised Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith's "herculean efforts" with the delayed, error-ridden Universal Credit IT system.
The Number 11 occupant claimed that UC "will transform the lives of those trapped in welfare dependency".
Ahead of the summer budget speech, Prime Minister David Cameron – when quizzed by the opposition over the government's failures with the overhaul of the welfare programme – had this to say:
I make no apology for taking Universal Credit at a deliberate pace.
As expected, Osbo's budget statement today focussed heavily on welfare cuts. But the Conservative government – with a full five-year term of office ahead of it – decided instead to spread those public spending reductions over three years.
The Tories had originally planned to have "saved" £12bn through reducing benefit handouts by 2017.
Among the more controversial changes to the welfare system was a yoof obligation, dubbed "earn or learn", with housing benefits for 18-21 year-olds axed except in extreme circumstances.
Osbo, who – in his pre-election Budget speech – had promised to plough cash into, among other things, the Internet of Things – made zero mention on Wednesday lunchtime of anything tech-related.
But he did attempt to woo international businesses to invest in Blighty by vowing to, once again, lower corporation tax from 20 per cent this year to 19 per cent by 2017, and 18 per cent by 2020.
The UK's growth, however, was revised down to 2.4 per cent by the Office for Budgetary Responsibility for 2015. It had predicted in April that growth would stand at 2.5 per cent this year.
Osborne said that the public purse wouldn't move into surplus now until 2019/20, even though the government plans £37bn in cuts during this Parliament. He said:
"We should cut the deficit at the same pace as we did in the last parliament. We shouldn’t go faster. We shouldn’t go slower."
Tax avoidance reform would account for a further £5bn in cuts, the chancellor claimed. Permanent nom-dom tax status will be abolished from April 2017.
A spending review has been earmarked for the autumn, when the government said it would hammer out plans for the remaining £20bn in cuts it hopes to achieve.
IDS was seen wildly celebrating the government's new national living wage, which will be jacked up to £9 an hour for over-25s by 2020. The existing minimum wage will continue for under-25s.
Much of what was in the thin-lipped chancellor's budget statement had already been leaked to the press ahead of time. So it was simply confirmed, for example, that the BBC would soak up the £650m cost of gifting over-75s with free TV licences.
Yes, George Osborne can write printer-standard fonts by hand pic.twitter.com/nG5RXojTZd— Mark Wallace (@wallaceme) July 8, 2015
This morning, Osbo had made it clear he was hammering home his very own Budget statement, not only by replacing a printer with his actual hands, but also by blocking his one-time Coalition chums the Lib Dems from seeing him on Twitter.
Honestly George, let it go. #budget2015 pic.twitter.com/Cg4UjxJmHx— Lib Dem Press Office (@LibDemPress) July 8, 2015