A tough task for embattled Chancellor

RARELY, if ever, has a Chancellor of the Exchequer had so little to work with than Alistair Darling in preparing his Budget, thanks in no small part to the product of his boss s efforts over the previous 10 years which left him bereft of any opportunity t

RARELY, if ever, has a Chancellor of the Exchequer had so little to work with than Alistair Darling in preparing his Budget, thanks in no small part to the product of his boss's efforts over the previous 10 years which left him bereft of any opportunity to be anything other than circumspect.

In the end, although he introduced some measures that will be useful to business, he has delayed the decisions, presumably for political reasons, required to return the country's finances to anything like a sustainable position. Nonetheless, he did get some things right.

Having pressed strongly for support in relation to Credit Insurance we welcome his commitment to do so. The scale of the problem is growing and the withdrawal of credit is seriously undermining a growing number of businesses. Cash and credit are the lifeblood of business and we expect the private sector insurers to engage fully. A tick in the box I think.

The extension to loss carry-back will help with smaller businesses' cash-flow but, the Chancellor may have considered increasing the �50,000 carry-back limit to really make a difference. Nevertheless, the doubling of the capital allowance will have a positive impact as will the expansion of the HMRC business support service. A tick there, too.


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The extra �10m for UK Trade and Investment is also to be welcomed, when global trade starts to expand businesses need to be in a position to take advantage. Much greater focus will need to be paid to exports and this boost cuts in the trade promotion budget seen over recent years.

The car scrappage scheme is imaginative and will be welcomed by the automotive industry which will be an important sector for driving our economy forward when the recovery comes. Whether people will take advantage in the numbers expected remains to be seen.

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Other announcements also seem, on the face of it, to be helpful including those that support the environmental sector, emerging technologies and house building. It is also pleasing to hear that the Government's commitment to increase funding for schools although in reality this seems to be a measure to camouflage the recent funding debacle for sixth forms and college building schemes.

So a few ticks but, in the back of my mind, I have this uneasy feeling that there is more to come given the style of budgets of recent years. Announce the less objectionable bits in the speech and produce the nasty surprises quietly at a later date.

Overall, however, the budget has the feel of the last throes of a rapidly failing government. It is time for a General Election.

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