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Digesting the Budget: First-belch reactions

Clarke snoozes, Miliband in ribtickling iPod insult

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Budget '11 Responding to George Osborne's Budget, Labour leader Ed Miliband said growth is down, employment is down and living standards are falling.

He accused Osborne's second Budget of building on the failure of his first. He said the coalition strategy of cuts was undermining the economic recovery.

Stock markets were mostly unmoved by Osborne's speech.

The Forum of Private Business is unimpressed with cuts to the Lower Value Consignment Relief for packages sent from the Channel Islands. We have more that here.

The Federation of Small Businesses said Osborne's Budget did not go far enough to encourage job creation.

John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The Chancellor has said that this Budget would be a ‘Budget for Growth’ and in part that is what we have – however, there are vital components missing for small firms to create jobs... The Government has committed to cutting red tape, but we believe new employment laws will still come into force in this year, which could hinder businesses from taking on staff. The biggest opportunity missing from this Budget is by not extending the NICs holiday nationwide to existing businesses, which would really have provided incentives for small firms to take on more staff.”

The lobbyists for big business the CBI welcomed the Budget. It especially liked cuts to corporation tax and reductions in health and safety rules. The only fly in the ointment for the fat cuts was paying for fuel duty steadying by taxing oil companies which it said: "could be counterproductive, and will create uncertainty for future investment."

There was no change in the speech to IR35 tax rules, expected by some observers.

Beaker Danny Alexander assured the BBC that the extra tax on oil extraction would not be countered by oil companies simply putting up prices at the pump. He accepted that it was a simple choice between extracting money from consumers or from oil companies.

Miliband noted that the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke did appear to doze off during the speech and described Osborne as "Lamont with an iPod", which is almost funny.

The biggest change, should it go through, is likely to be the move to unified income tax and national insurance payments. Osborne said he would open a consultation on the issue, but any changes would likely be several years away. ®

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