Listening to Gordon Brown’s budget speech, as a technology business, the category that he believes holds the key to the UK’s economic future; I’m struck by how far he misses the point or simply prefers not to see it.
The Chancellor speaks extravagantly about the need for 14 million skilled graduates and cutting edge technologies but fails to recognise the problematical link between these and the education required to improve the skills base he predicts we will need by 2020. Throwing more money at the recruitment of 3,000 more science and maths teachers and free 'A' level education for all is good, but does not truly address the fundamental malaise in education that ten years of this government has failed to solve. The British workforce has declining productivity and our record in the generation of science graduates is dismal, it’s going backwards.
Not only does Britain need a skilled workforce for the future but it needs a flexible and competitive one as well and writing from the position of having built-up a successful company, The Research Group, from scratch, in the eighties and nineties, I can say with some confidence that the barriers to doing the same again today are too great, in the shape of a small mountain of employers legislation and associated red-tape. In other words, government is making it more difficult to create the entrepreneurial business environment that it tells us we need.
But here’s the bad news. 4p on a bottle of wine, 1p on beer, 9p on fags but at least the inheritance tax threshold is raised to £325,000 if you are thinking of shuffling off this year. Gordon Bdid not mention the fact that this Budget adds £5.5bn to Britain’s tax bill – already the highest ever – over three years. Of this £5.5bn, £4.8bn was not even contained in the Budget measures announced today.
If you have a “gas-guzzling car” you are going to wish you didn’t but there is a new low rate of road tax for fuel and emission efficient cars of £0.
So nothing that I can see that is unusually dramatic and no mention of the health service, which would be embarrasing but as I write, beyond a commitment to keep public spending high on a year by year basis, which would be fine, if we could see any true signs of a return on investment for what has been squandered over the last decade on the NHS, education, crime and everything else we’re all concerned about.
Oh, and a final piece of good news, VAT has been slashed on condoms - it's true - so we should all go out and celebrate!
At the next budget, I’m guessing that Gordon will be Prime Minister.