GP Taylor: Imagine a Budget of radical ideas to balance the books

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THERE is every right to be suspicious when a Budget comes so close to a General Election. There is nothing better than a Chancellor who wants to sweeten the pot by paying off those from whom it seeks support.

In this George Osborne is no different. The Tory party of which he is a member is basically an embodiment of a ruling elite brought up through public schools, the Bullingdon Club and Notting Hill wine parties. Historically it pretends to represent the middle classes when in reality it uses whatever guise it can to gain votes and 
win seats.

This, however, is politics whatever the colour and New Labour is no different. They have long abandoned the working classes and appear to look down in contempt at their former white working class support.

The frustrating thing about a Budget is that they always go for the safe bet. Booze, fags and tax are the standards. It would be far more interesting if Osborne could use fiscal policy for social change.

In life people are most frustrated by the small problems and irritations. The Budget could be used to pour balm on these issues.

The quality of our physical environment is of great importance to many. Living in a clean street brings better social cohesion and civic pride.

One way that Osborne could use the Budget would be to tax the producers of those things that blight our environment.

Chewing gum is an unsightly and unhealthy addition to our pavements. It is also a blight on finances.

It is claimed that the average piece of gum costs 3p but the cost to cleaning that single piece from our pavement is £1.50.

This amounts to £56m every year. Around six tons of gum are dropped each year in the West End of London alone. That is a huge mountain and nationally is a severe problem to local authorities.

If Osborne really does want a better Britain then a simple tax on gum would go along way to helping the environment and also helping to save the teeth of the nation. It would also encourage manufacturers to develop new products that are biodegradable and without the power of kryptonite. A rubbish tax on big business is far better than a penance on the poor.

It is also simple economics that if you encourage free enterprise you will boost jobs and grow the economy. That in turn means more people paying tax.

It is therefore impossible to understand why successive governments have been hell bent on putting local traders out of business.

A fine example of this is the coffee shop. These havens are a welcome part of our high streets.

Many are owned by sole traders and are unlike the international chains who hide their money offshore. These businesses pay taxes and employ good numbers of people.

Sadly, too many of them go out of business because of the tax trap set by VAT. They become revenue raisers and generators of cash for the Government. The goods they buy are VAT free and then in some magical act when they go back over the counter they have suddenly created tax revenue.

Osborne could help local coffee shops and other traders by introducing an exemption on VAT for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

This would be a dramatic boost to the economy and go some way to stop our high streets being turned into a grotto of charity shops.

In that way also, Osborne could end a deeply-held frustration. Surely now is the time for charity shops to pay a full business rate?

After all, when they sell a growing number of new goods from gifts to foods then it is unfair for them to compete with local traders and not pay fully what their neighbours do.

Governments have always sought new ideas for taxes. Believe it or not there was once a tax on windows. Why then doesn’t Osborne take the big stride and start to tax the black economy? It would be very simple. Make prostitution a profession and put a tax on it.

Also, instead of allowing the two or three million Britons who use cannabis tax-free, he could legalise it and get the revenue.

These would be unique 
ways of bringing extra money into the economy.

Along with more nationalisation of resources 
such as the railways, power and water, the economy could soon be back in the black.

Sadly, this Budget will never dare to be bold or innovative. It will be predictable and boring and aim to appease a country fed up with austerity.

The middle classes and pensioners will be given brief inducements.

What is really needed is a government that is prepared 
to be innovative, to look to new and exciting ways of bringing money into the coffers and change the way Britain balances its budget.

GP Taylor is a writer, and broadcaster, a former police officer and vicar and can be followed on twitter @gptaylorauthor