Osborne gambling all with divisive budget, says British press
LONDON BRITAIN’S newspapers on Thursday slammed Finance Minister George Osborne’s plans to introduce a “granny tax,” but his divisive budget was commended by some for showing political courage.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne announced in Wednesday’s annual budget that the tax-free allowance for pensioners drawing an income would be frozen at £10,500 ($16,660, 12,600 euros), an effective tax hike when inflation is taken into account.
He also confirmed that the top-rate income tax would be reduced from 50 percent to 45 percent, arguing that the rate introduced by the last Labour government had brought in little money due to tax avoidance and had stunted growth.
The chancellor immediately faced accusations that he was helping the rich while punishing the needy.
The centre-right Times ran with front-page headline “The 50p Gambler”, the left-leaning Guardian went with “Pensioners fund tax cut”, while the pro-Tory Daily Telegraph splashed “‘Granny tax’ hits five million pensioners” across its front page.
The Conservative-friendly Daily Mail weighed in with “Osborne picks the pockets of pensioners,” adding the budget would hit “5m pensioners with £3bn hidden ‘granny tax’.” The Guardian spearheaded the attack on Osborne, accusing the Conservative finance minister of looking after his party’s “friends in the City.” “The chancellor seems to think that the super-rich deserve lower taxes while pensioners should hand back more to the Treasury,” said its editorial.
The broadsheet added it was “a budget that was, politically at least, redistributive in just the wrong direction: taking from the poor to give to the rich.” The Times said Osborne had taken “the biggest risk of his political career” in announcing the tax cut for high earners, but argued that he “was right to produce a budget that put incentives for growth ahead of political consequences”.
The Telegraph also concluded that the minister “probably made as good a fist of things as he could,” considering Britain’s restrictive fiscal position.
The paper’s editorial called the tax cut “politically courageous but economically essential”.
“Overall, Mr Osborne was right to stay focused on the essential truth: that we must earn our way out of our difficulties after years of living on tick,” it added.