It’s only seven months since George Osborne delivered his ‘emergency’ Budget in the wake of the Conservatives’ unexpected all-out general election victory. Cast your mind back to July and all the pre-Budget talk was over what a Tory chancellor, unfettered by the Coalition government, might do with new found freedoms.At the end of the day, Osborne was reckoned to have delivered a surprise political masterstroke – the introduction of a new mandatory ‘national living wage’ designed at one swoop to boost the UK’s lagging productivity and simultaneously to undercut opponents on the left who had been living wage campaigners for years and never thought a Conservative chancellor would catch up.
Leave aside for a moment doubts over whether what was on offer actually amounted to a ‘living wage’ at all, Osborne was able to cast himself as a magician – pressing forward with deficit reduction (albeit at a slower pace) while pledging a firm commitment for jam in the future for large numbers of ordinary workers.
Fast forward to November’s Autumn Statement and some of the sheen had worn off. The build-up was dominated by widespread controversy and dissent among some Conservative MPs caused by the decision to cut tax credits for working families, something that once again made Osborne look out of touch.
Cue a remarkable U-turn, ultimately overshadowed by the Shadow Chancellor’s spectacularly misjudged use of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book to prove a point and George Osborne, dubbed by onlookers the ‘Lucky Chancellor’ marched forward again.
So, what’s in store when MPs convene in the House of Commons on 16 March to hear Mr Osborne’s latest Budget?
The timing is fascinating for a number of reasons. Will the Chancellor avoid risk and play things safe in order to burnish a reputation for prudence ahead of any potential Tory leadership contest following the EU referendum? Or will he pull more rabbits out of the hat designed to place him firmly on the side of ‘ordinary’ workers?
And with the Holyrood general election just around the corner in May, there will be a particular interest here in Scotland to look out for any potential ‘traps’ for the SNP and Scottish Labour – particularly those that require decisions around newly and soon-to-be devolved tax raising powers.
On Thursday 17 March, Indigo’s Executive Chairman Jacqui Low will be among the panellists speaking at the Herald’s special post-Budget briefing event in Glasgow, looking at all of these issues and asking how they will affect leading businesses and their employees in Scotland.
If you’re interested in finding out more about attending the event, or to discuss how your company may wish to respond to the issues raised in this year’s Budget and Scottish general election, please contact me at 0131 554 1146 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an informal conversation.
Peter Smyth is an Account Director at Indigo