Opinion: One for the road from the Chancellor

Opinion: One for the road from the Chancellor

George Osborne presented a Budget with the view on Britain’s doorsteps in mind, says Abta head of public affairs Stephen D'Alfonso

Yesterday’s Budget statement delivered by the Chancellor was the opening shot in the short election campaign.

With Parliament’s dissolution imminent and the election less than 50 days away, the Chancellor has laid out the Conservatives’ proposition to the electorate, stating that they “have a plan that is working” and they are the only party that can be trusted with the economy and the public finances.

For anyone who has watched the polls closely in recent months, the two main political parties have consistently polled in the low to mid-thirties, taking turns in edging ahead of one another by a point here or two points there.

This makes the Budget statement potentially very important for the Conservatives. 

George Osborne used the Budget as an attempt to give his party the political momentum necessary to end this deadlock in the opinion polls, telling a story of an economic recovery that is being felt fairly across the whole of the country.

The Chancellor’s job will now be to take this to the country’s doorstep.

The Opposition Labour Party came out fighting, with a clear argument that this Budget will not benefit the majority, and that the Chancellor’s spending plans would result in a Conservative-led government making devastating cuts after polling day. 

So the battle-lines are drawn.

With positive economic indicators highlighting increased employment and a growing economy, today’s Budget included some announcements of interest to the travel industry.

The government’s review of business rates – which is due to report in time for the 2016 Budget – will provide a welcome opportunity to overhaul the outdated and expensive business rates regime.

Abta will engage closely with this review to put forward the views of the association’s members.

Other measures, such as investment in transport infrastructure and tax changes – including abolition of national insurance for under 21s and apprentices, as well as further rises in personal tax allowance  – will be welcomed by many travel businesses and their employees.

After two consecutive wins on Air Passenger Duty (APD), in last year’s Budget and at the Autumn Statement in December, it’s disappointing that the government announced an inflationary increase in Band B APD.

However, with the devolution debate putting pressure on the Treasury to acknowledge the damaging and unfair impact of this tax, and the Treasury responding with a promise to launch a discussion paper following the election, it is clear that the campaign for a fairer tax on flying must maintain this hard-fought-for momentum. 

A major opportunity on APD looms after the election – and we have a job to do as an industry to make sure the next government does not apply a patchwork solution which fails to address the root of the APD problem.

We’ve all heard the well-rehearsed views of the political pundits that the election will be unprecedented and unpredictable.

The Chancellor will be hoping this morning that his Budget helped focus the electorate’s mind on the important decision just around the corner and will move the polls in the Conservatives’ favour.    

Time will tell if he has been successful.

In the meantime, Abta has launched a #ValueTourism campaign asking members and those in the wider industry to make the case to election candidates on why they should show support for the tourism industry.

For more information, go to abta.com/electionhub

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