Budget 2009: Darling looks to ‘day of reckoning’

By Ian Dunt

Chancellor Alistair Darling will face “a day of reckoning” on Wednesday when he presents his Budget, the Conservatives have said.

The Treasury is expected to confirm a three per cent drop in growth in 2009, as opposed to the 0.75 per cent to 1.25 per cent predicted in the Pre-Budget Report.

“It will be a day of reckoning and I think you are going to see the chancellor forecast the longest recession that Britain has had since the second world war,” shadow chancellor George Osborne said.

Mr Darling appears to be attempting to take the Tories arguments by the scruff of the neck on Wednesday, with early reports he plans to cut £15 billion in Whitehall waste over the next few years.

The Treasury already announced £5 billion in saving for the 2010/11 financial year.

A decision on whether to implement a car scrapping scheme, whereby motorists are given a cash incentive to trade in their car for a newer one, is still under consideration.

The CBI economic forecast, published today, said 2009 was tougher than expected, but painted a fairly rosy picture for 2010.

“We are undoubtedly in the middle of a major economic crisis, compounded by the reluctance of banks to lend,” said Vince Cable, Lib Dem Treasury spokesman.

“No amount of spinning by government can avoid these simple brutal economic facts which the budget has to address.”

Speaking at Unison’s annual health conference in Harrogate, general secretary Dave Prentis delivered a stark warning to the government on behalf of his union this morning, implying it was spending too much time on attacking the Tories – typified by the Damian McBride affair – rather than addressing the economy.

“Our time and patience is running out,” he said.

“The country is in a mess and we look to the government to come up with serious solutions, not to waste time in childish venom. But at the moment, the government is losing us.”

Bookmakers William Hills are offering odds of 6/4 that cigarettes go up by 12p or more; 6/5 that beer goes up by 5p per pint or more. They also offer even money that the chancellor will announce a VAT rate of over 17.5 per cent.