08:00 Thursday 06 December 2012

Rivals at loggerheads over challenging mini-Budget

Written byADRIAN JENKINS

THREE Tory MPs and a Labour opponent have locked horns over the Chancellor’s mini-Budget.

Labour candidate Jon Wheale
Labour candidate Jon Wheale

They clashed after George Osborne used his autumn statement to offer voters a mixture of early Christmas carrots and New Year stick.

Sweeteners included scrapping a planned 3p a litre rise in fuel duty, raising the basic income tax threshold by £235 to £9,940, and increasing the state pension by 2.5 per cent to £110.15 a week.

But these were soured by a lower than first predicted growth forecast for this year from 0.8 per cent to -0.1 per cent, lower than inflation benefit increases, and a gloomier forecast about the debt burden.

Tory Burton MP Andrew Griffiths said: “It was a hard and difficult statement but one that will help hard-working people and get the country back on the road to prosperity. Everybody would like to see the economy growing quicker, but we heard today that the UK economy is growing faster than France and Germany, which shows the country is on the right track.”

Mr Griffiths was ‘particularly pleased’ with the fuel duty move, which ‘meant there would have been no increase in petrol tax for two-and-a-half years’, and tax cuts and lending for small businesses.

He said he accepted the ‘difficult decision’ to reduce planned benefit increases, adding: “At a time when people in the public and private sectors are facing pay cuts and pay freezes, it’s inevitable benefits will only rise by one per cent in order to help pay off the debt.”

South Derbyshire Tory MP Heather Wheeler said the Chancellor had introduced measures which would ‘directly benefit the people and businesses of South Derbyshire who work hard and want to get on’.

Praising moves including the £2.70 a week rise in the state pension, she said: “Times are tough, but the economy is on the right track and is on the road to recovery.”

North West Leicestershire Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said Mr Osborne’s announcements were ‘critical’.

He said: “Times are tough. But the economy is healing and the measures will bring welcome support to families and businesses.”

But John Wheale, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Burton, said the autumn statement did next to nothing and exemplified failure.

Mr Osborne, he said, had failed to provide a plan to create jobs and growth, long-term reforms to strengthen the economy and action to help people on low and middle incomes.

Mr Wheale said: “We need a ‘One Nation’ approach to the economy: jobsled growth and the next generation valued and provided with real prospects.”

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