We all wait to see what the budget has in store. This is less fun than it used to be, as it has been heavily trailed that the personal tax allowance will be raised by £1,000 as a first stage towards lifting a very significant number of people out of tax altogether, and improving the work/benefit incentive. That is a good thing.
The banking levy will be another good thing, but far better would be a transaction tax that penalises continual speculative trades. Capital Gains Tax increases are likely to be watered down to protect wealthy tories with second homes. I fear we will see punitive duty increases on alcohol; only the wealthy are to be allowed to get drunk. But I am uncertain where the tax rise required is going to come from, if neither the basic rate of income tax nor the rate of VAT is to be increased.
I fear we may not get a great deal of detail on the cuts until the public spending round in the autumn, though we should get headline figures today, which will be helpful.
I very much favour public spending cuts. I am unabashedly ideologically committed to a major reduction in a role of the state. So I am more than happy to see an early hack at it. Of course the things I would immediately cut are not going to be cut. My main concern is that the legitimate redistributive role of the state is not weakened.
Some ideas of what I would do:
Cut Trident, aricraft carriers, nuclear submarines, end the Afghan War immediately.
Cut all local government salaries over £28,000 by 15%, with a phase in mechanism at the margin.
Make everybody in local government earning over £50,000 immediately redundant.
Freeze all civil service incremental pay scales.
Set an automatic civil service pay mechanism: annual salary increase = rate of economic growth plus inflation minus 0.25%. Backdate the formula to January 2007 and adjust salaries accordingly.
Cancel all PFI projects immediately without compensation. Pay only assessed construction cost to date.
Cancel all operating PFI schemes without compensation. Pay assessed construction costs plus interest minus PFI payments made.
End all government arts spending and close the British Council.
Replace incapacity benefit with a single needs assessed welfare payment to all unemployed people, regardless of why they are unemployed.
End all internal market procedures within the NHS and the rest of the public sector.
Institute a civil service and local authority recruitment freeze for three years.
Means test all state payments including basic old age pensions and child benefit.
Sadly the budget won’t be nearly this exciting. What would you like to see?