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Budget 2016 Budget Box
George Osborne will make is eighth budget speech as chancellor Reuters

George Osborne is expected to put education at the heart of his eighth budget announcement today (16 March). After backing down from pension reform, the chancellor will commit £1.5bn ($2.11bn) to additional lessons to improve Britain's standing in international education league tables.

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons, measures Osborne is expected to flesh out include:

Follow our live blog for all the news, updates and reaction from Westminster or find out how to watch events unfold live.

IBTimes UK columnist James Bloodworth writes there is no evidence academy schools raise educational standards - "None. Zilch. Nada" - after news comprehensive schools will become academies.

The Labour leader has finished his response prompting MPs to stream to the exits. He criticised the government's "mates rates" corporation tax deals, slammed proposals that he believed caused inequality and for missing its targets.

Stay tuned for more reaction...

Corbyn: Labour will not stand by and watch more poverty and inequality in our country

Corbyn: These [cuts to vulnerable] are the actions the cruel and callous government that sides with the wrong people.

Corbyn: This is a Chancellor for tax dodgers not tax payers, a Chancellor for hedge fund managers

Jeremy Corbyn

"It is a recovery built on sand and a budget of failure," starts Jeremy Corbyn. "This Budget has unfairness at its very core - paid for by those who can least afford it."

George Osborne

And he's done! All manner of announcements were made by the chancellor but its the unexpected sugar levy that will make the headlines.

The chancellor discusses the EU ahead of policy annoucements

Osborne: Capital gains tax slashed to 20% (down from 28%), fuel, beer, cider and whisky duty to be frozen.

From April next year, ISA limit increase from just over £15,000 to £20,000 a year.

Autumn Statement 2016: Sugar

Osborne: 5yo children are consuming body weight in sugar a year...obesity drives disease and costs £27b a year. A can of Cola has nine teaspoons of sugar in but many soft drinks companies recognise concerns.

"I am not prepared to look back at my time and say to children's generation 'I'm sorry we ducked difficult decisions"

Drinks with 5g of sugar per 100ml will face an 18p levy from 2018 and those with more than 8g per 100ml will be hit with 24p a litre.

The Levy on soft-drinks industry will raise £520m a year, Osborne says.

Osborne: Every primary and secondary school in England to become an academy. We are going to establish a fair funding national formula. Want 90% of schools that will benefit by the end of the parliament.

York flooding

Osborne: £700 boost to flood defence, HS3 and Crossrail 2 all get the green light.

Autumn Statement 2016: North sea oil
Getty Images

Osborne throws ailing oil and gas industry a lifeline: abolishes petroleum revenue tax. £1bn support for industry but how much is there left to save?

Osborne: Commercial stamp duty to be reduced for lower bands

Osborne: 600,00 small businesses will pay NO rates from next year. "A typical hairdresser in Leeds will pay no business rates. A typical newsagents in Nuneaton will pay no business rates."

Osborne: Corporation was 20% at start of this parliament, reduced to 18% but today I will go further

Osborne: Five main pillars to Budget

  • fundamental reform of business tax, close loopholes
  • devolve power to local communities
  • commitments to infrastructure of the future
  • reform education
  • support those who "who work hard and save"

Osborne: National debt projected to be:

82.6% in 16/17

81.3% in 17/18

79.9% in 18/19

77.2% in 19/20

74.7% in 20/21

Budget 2016 George Osborne
George Osborne speaks during the 2016: Live Budget at the House of Commons BBC

Osborne: "In 2017-18, it [the deficit] falls to 1.9%. Then it falls again to 1.0% in 2018-19. In 2019-20 Britain is set to have a surplus of £10.4bn and rise to 11bn the year after."

Osborne: Save an additional £3.5bn in 2019/20

Osborne: "We act now so we don't pay later", if we took Labour "dangerous advice" since 2010 we would have borrowed 930bn more.

EU referendum
Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Osborne: "OBR forecasts are based on Britain remaining in the EU"

OBR growith forecasts:

2% in 2016 (down from 2.4% predicted in November)

2.2% in 2017

2.1% in 2018, 19, 20

Osborne: Eight years ago Britain was worst prepared for financial crash but today "one of the best prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead and that is what our long term economic plans has always been about."

Says banks have doubled capital ratios and the government has beefed foreign currency reserves.

Osborne: OBR will revise down potential productivity growth


And here's Osborne. He starts saying the economy is growing "faster than any major economy in the world" and is stronger "because we confronted problems and took difficult decisions."

But he warns of "headwinds" and a "dangerous cocktail" and says the government must act now.

Caroline Lucas asks why PM is "gagging consultancy" with his "forced academies policy". He urges he to "look at results" and that new education plans are "true devolution" that hands power to head teacher

Conservative MP Ranil Jayawardena asks what more David Cameron will do to halt the genocide by "Satanic state".

The PM says the government will "keep to the plan" after air strikes had "shrunk by 40% the land contrlled by Daesh in Iraq". He calls for "patience".

So far on PMQs: respiratory disease, air pollution, employment Libya and tidal lagoons...


A dapper Corbyn asks if communities will be allowed to veto fracking. Cameron instead lists his green credentials including that UK has "second biggest ultra-low vehicle market in EU".

Opposition leader asks why is government failing renewable energy sector:

Attacking Cameron on renewable energy seems an odd strategy:

Corbyn starts by asking how many people die each year because of air pollution. Prime Minister says he does not have figures with him to which the Labour leader said it was 500,000


And we're off! We'll have updates from PMQs here but follow @IBTUKPolitics for the ins and outs.

Just as PMQs is about to start, the Liberal Democrats stick the knife into the government saying proposals announced are merely "reheated" ones.

Economic spokesperson Susan Kramer said: "The Conservatives are not the Party of the builders, they are the Party of the press release. They endlessly re-announce the same projects but with no money to back them up and no shovels going into the ground.

"If he wanted to, George Osborne could really get Britain building again, by borrowing to fund real infrastructure investment. It is only because of his choice to achieve an overall surplus that this isn't happening. He'd rather reheat old announcements than put a fire under infrastructure investment."


As the Chancellor was showing off his briefcase, ComRes published figures showing he and David Cameron were trusted more over the economy then Labour. A survey by the pollster showed 45% of respondents trusted the Conservative pair over Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

However, two thirds of people said they were no better off now than last year and more than half (51%) said the British economy had not improved. Only 31% said Osborne had done a good job.

Budget 2016 George Osborne
British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne holds up the Budget Box as he poses for photographs outside 11 Downing Street Getty Images

And there he is. Osborne makes his way out of Number 11 on his way to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget speech.

David Cameron

David Cameron leaves Downing Street and heads to the Houses of Parliament. As you can see he's gone for a check shirt and blue tie combination. Safe.

William Hill puts the odds of the Chancellor wearing the same colour tie at 8/11. And talking of odds, "Hard working families" and "Brexit" are firm favourites at 7/4 and 2/1 respectively to get a mention, while "Junior doctors!" is priced at 5/1.

UK pub industry calls for cut in beer duty as sales decline by 114 million pints in 2015


The Daily Mail reports there will be no increase in beer duty. The chancellor has got to find £4bn in savings but will protect the beer pump in the way of a freeze on duty. He wiped a frothy 1p off duty in the previous three budgets.

Deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle has received his copy of the budget statement. He'll be jumping into the speaker's chair once John Bercow departs at the finale of Prime Minister's Questions.

Autumn Statement 2016: pension

Rabbit from the hat?

After tax relief on pensions was ruled out of the budget it seems unlikely there will be any major changes to pensions, but...

"There is also still scope for some surprises and, given the Chancellor's past form, this cannot be ruled out," Francois Barker, head of pensions at law firm Eversheds, said.

"We all know that he still has to find savings in order to balance the books and pensions has some big numbers attached to it.

"Further reductions in the lifetime and the annual allowances or changing the way in which pension benefits are measured against them are both options.

"Abolishing NICs (National Insurance contributions) relief on employer pension contributions - and thereby putting an end to salary sacrifice - is also a possibility and one with a far from insignificant £14bn per year of savings attached."

Jeremy Corbyn and  John McDonnell
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Getty

'Press stunt'

Labour has come out swinging ahead of the budget. Read the full story here.

"Next generation first"

The chancellor has Tweeted from Number 11 as he finalises his speech. See: red.

Just Cameron
Just Cameron runs at the Cheltenham festival this afternoon

Fancy a flutter?

Cameron is unlikely to have a wining afternoon according to the bookies...

Just Cameron, the Micky Hammond-trained race horse, is running in the 3.30 at Cheltenham today but is ranked as an 80-1 outsider by Paddy Power.

Osborne will be hoping his odds at succeeding his friend are boosted by his performance today.

Autumn Statement 2016: mortgages
Getty Images

Little has been briefed about housing and property, says IBTimes UK's Shane Croucher, but the chancellor could water down or even spring a U-turn on the stamp duty hike he imposed on landlords at last year's Autumn statement.

"There are a number of practical problems with the policy, which was subject to a three week consultation, half what is the normal minimum. For example, if you are buying a new main residence, but haven't been able to sell your old home first for whatever reason (legal delays, for example), you must pay the higher rate because the government will consider it an additional property.

"Even if you do not intend on renting it out. If your old home is sold within 18 months, you will get a refund. But who has an extra 3% stamp duty just lying around? This could disrupt, delay or destroy some housing transactions."

Missed debt target

Osborne has pledged to build a budget surplus of £23bn by 2020 but those plans could be under threat, according to the FT. The chancellor is set to announce he has missed his goal to cut debt as a proportion of GDP this year and is expected come in at more than 83.1%, where it stood in November.

Far East influence?

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell memorably waved Chairman Mao's Little Red Book at last year's Autumn statement. He won't get the chance to reply to Osborne following his budget statement this afternoon, that duty falls to leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn. More of the same then? It hasn't been ruled out...

Economist and IBTimes UK columnist Stefan Stern has had enough of "financial jiggery-pokery" and wants the chancellor to come down on tax avoidance.

We cannot afford not to collect tax that is due. If politicians really care about budget deficits and the growing national debt then tax collection must be an absolute priority. The HMRC was right to pursue this case in the highest court in the land, and we should rejoice at its victory.

Unemployment boost

Public sector jobs
Total UK public sector employment, March 1999 to December 2015, seasonally adjusted ONS

The Office for National Statistics has published its latest jobs data:

  • UK unemployment fell by 28,000 between November and January to 1.68m
  • Employment in UK public corporations, at 173,000, was 8,000 lower than at September 2015
  • Private sector employment, at 26m, was 113,000 higher than at September 2015 and 529,000 higher than at December 2014
  • Private sector employment has risen in every quarter from December 2011 and now stands at its highest level ever recorded
John McDonnell
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell believes that a decision to vote on air strikes in Syria is “above party politics” Getty

Osborne's "press stunt"

Labour has fired the opening shots early on with shadow chancellor John McDonnell branding today's budget as having "little substance". Rolling out more academies will not address "class sizes, shortage of teachers and lack of school places", he said, before pouring scorn on infrastructure projects.

"And when you put all this together with the possible tax cuts that are floated, which will be paid for by more stealth taxes and cruel cuts to the disabled, this budget from George Osborne looks to not be about the future, but taking us back to the old politics of spin and little substance," he said.

Budget 2016 Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne visits the Crossrail station construction site at Tottenham Court Road in central London Stefan Rousseau/ Getty Images

George Osborne was at the Crossrail construction site in central London on Wednesday ahead of today's announcement on developing a north-south Crossrail 2 link across the capital. "This Government will go on investing in big infrastructure projects like Crossrail 2 and keep Britain fit for the future," he Tweeted on Tuesday.

While government money will be used to pay towards development costs, expect commuters to foot some of the bill as well.

Welcome to live coverage of today's budget. The big news over night was the government's plan to extend school hours by up to an hour to bring the UK in line with high-performers in the Far East.

Under the proposal, English state schools will be required to become academies by 2022, taking power out of the hands of local authorities for the first time since 1902.

Osborne will put education at the centre of his speech after the prime minister shot down pension reforms.

Stay tuned for all the preamble as well as the main event itself, starting with employment figures at 9.30am