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Osborne to unveil 2013 budget

TAX MAN: Osborne with the famous red briefcase

BUSINESSES large and small to families struggling on low incomes will be closely watching chancellor George Osborne announce his 2013 budget this lunchtime.

Osborne, under pressure as Britain’s economic woes mount with stagnated growth, unemployment and a downgraded credit rating, will make his budget statement at 12.30pm, straight after David Cameron has climbed down from the despatch box at prime minister’s questions.

The chancellor said he is to “tackle the economy's problems head on” with the fourth budget of his tenure at Number 11. The budget is for “those who want to work hard and get on,” he said in a pre-budget Twitter message.

Osborne’s refusal to budge on Labour’s calls for him to “change course” will provide further ammunition for opposition leader Ed Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who argue the government’s current fiscal policies are out of touch and making the economy worse.

Nonetheless, Osborne and the cabinet are pressing ahead to cut Britain’s financial deficit – during a cabinet meeting this week it was claimed no ministers around the table objected to the proposed cuts.

In 2012, the UK economy shrank by 0.3 per cent.

New figures show that unemployment has increased by 7,000 to a total of 2.52 million people out of work during the last three months of 2012.

Speculation about Osborne’s key budget policies has been rife. The Guardian said he could delay a planned rise in fuel tax that was scheduled for September. The Daily Mail anticipated that the chancellor will “unlock £4.8bn in child trust funds and allow parents to transfer their investments into more generous junior ISAs”.

The Sun said he will abolish April’s 6p rise for the price of a pint of beer and scrap plans to increase the cost of beer every year by two per cent above inflation.

Meanwhile, The Times speculated he will provide help for “homebuyers, small businesses and cash-strapped households”.

The government is seeking to save £2.5bn, and Osborne told colleagues at a cabinet meeting yesterday (March 19), that they must cut two per cent from their departmental budgets.

Both Osborne and Cameron have ruled out any further borrowing to enact measures designed to stimulate growth.

Nevertheless, they have ring fenced spending on schools, health and overseas aid.

Lord Heseltine, the government’s regional growth advisor said Osborne’s plans would aid businesses and entrepreneurs. The chancellor had “vision”, the former Thatcherite minister told the BBC.

However, Miliband has been constant in his criticism of Osborne. The Labour leader said the chancellor has to “change course, not to offer more of the same, because his economic plan is failing".

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