Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: “Behind the Budget – economic analysis, confidential briefings and cottage pie”

by Stephen Tall on March 24, 2013

Nick Clegg’s latest letter to supporters focuses on this week’s Budget taking us behind-the-scenes of how it was developed, and highlighting the Lib Dem successes alongside the challenges still facing the UK.

libdem letter from nick clegg

Agreeing the Budget is a long and painstaking process.

It started at the beginning of the year, with a presentation by the Chancellor to the Quad (that’s me, him, the PM and Danny Alexander). The information is confidential enough that everyone in the room – even the PM – has to give back the print outs at the end of the meeting for them to be locked away in the Treasury again.

And the discussions on the fine details of our policy plans went right up to the last minute with a succession of emails and phone calls between our offices agreeing changes to the small print.

The series of meetings in between were, as ever, all absorbing, as we traded proposal and counter-proposal and, slowly, a consensus emerged. The one that sticks in my mind most of all was held on a Sunday evening, in an otherwise deserted 10 Downing Street, right after our Spring Conference.

It being a Sunday evening, when most of us would have given anything to be at home with our families, someone laid on dinner. We all had cottage pie as we pored over the figures and agreed the plans.

And at the end of all that economic analysis, confidential briefings and cottage pie, I think we put together a Budget Liberal Democrats can be really proud of.

We cut taxes for people on low and middle incomes: ensuring that from next April no-one will pay tax on the first £10,000 they earn – a total £700 tax cut for millions of working people.

We stopped a planned rise in fuel duty, helping people with one of the biggest worries they face: how to afford to fill up the tank to get to work.

And we’re backing people who want to buy a home with a new scheme called Help to Buy which effectively makes the “bank of mum and dad” many first time buyers have had to rely on available to everyone: an equity loan, on favourable terms, to make your deposit money go further and help you get a mortgage.

This Budget has Lib Dem credentials all through it. Bringing forward the date for Steve Webb’s flat rate pension and the cap on care costs for the elderly put forward by Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb. And the cut in beer duty my Yorkshire colleague Greg Mulholland has fought so valiantly for in his campaign to save the local pub!

Of course the Budget wasn’t all good news. The economy is still struggling to emerge from the massive shock it suffered. That’s why we sensibly decided to let the debt target slip another year – sticking to our overall plan, but not dogmatically so. As I said at our Spring Conference, we’ve got to be unflinching but not unthinking in our approach.

That’s why we are doing everything possible to get the economy moving, and balance the books. Even in these difficult times, more will be spent on infrastructure in this decade than Labour managed in the last – even though they spent money hand over fist on almost everything else. This budget announced investment in the construction of social and private rented homes, a new £2000 employee allowance to cut the cost of National Insurance when businesses take on staff, and an industrial strategy that has already put £1bn into Britain’s world-beating aviation industry.

This Budget does exactly what I hoped: it delivers on our core objective to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

Nick

PS A big congratulations to our two newest councillors, Cllr Richard Arnold in North Dorset and Cllr Ron Tindall in Dacorum, elected on Thursday night in local council by-elections, proving once again that where we work, we can win.

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* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.