THIS week’s budget will have little impact on the lives of most South Tynesiders, according to borough shoppers questioned by the Gazette.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was in boastful mood as he delivered his final fiscal statement before polling day on Thursday, May 7, announcing a number of measures intended to curry favour with voters.
It featured a series of tax cuts, including a new personal savings allowance permitting people to earn up to £1,000 a year in interest tax- free. It also increased the amount people can earn before they pay tax to £11,000.
Mr Osborne lopped a penny off the price of a pint of beer, but he added a 16p hike to the cost of a packet of cigarettes.
Self-employed telecommunications engineer Craig Miller, 46, of South Shields, believes he will be better off as a result.
He said: “I believe it will benefit me, particularly the further increase in the personal tax-free allowance to £11,000. I also welcome the announcement he made with the help for home-buyers through the Isa scheme.
“The 1p off a pint is neither here nor there really, but I do smoke up to 20 cigarettes a day, so that will have some impact.
“When you combine those small things with the bigger picture, I think I’ll be better off generally. I’d give the budget seven out of 10.
“Whether it will persuade more people to vote Conservative in South Shields, I don’t know.
“Labour is so dominant here, although I know a lot of people who plan to vote Ukip as a protest against that dominance.”
Paul Fryer, 33, recently moved from Cheltenham to South Shields, his wife’s home town.
He said: “I must admit that I didn’t pay a lot of attention to this budget. I only moved to Shields a couple of weeks ago. I was working in IT in Cheltenham, and I’m looking to start working again.
“I did a diploma in financial planning, so I should really pay more attention to the budget.
“Raising the tax threshold will be a help once I’m back in work, and, thankfully, the rise in the price of cigarettes won’t affect me.
“I used to smoke 20 a day, but I quit, not for health reasons but because of the cost.”
Retired barmaid Jen English, 68, formerly employed by the Simonside Arms pub in South Shields, said the budget would have “zero impact” on her.
She added: “A penny off a pint will make little difference. I only go out once a week, to play darts at the Perseverance Social Club at Tyne Dock.
“A lot of what he announced relates to working people rather than the retired.”
Retired butcher Maurice Lamb, 63, agreed. He said: “I have a private pension, and I feel that younger people who are not putting aside for a pension are going to suffer in the years to come.
“I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke. My life will go on the same regardless of the budget.”
Colin Hall, 45, of Holborn House, South Shields, is on sickness benefit, and he is concerned about what the Chancellor didn’t mention in his budget.
He said: “I hope the budget will benefit hard-working families. They deserve support.
“I’m on benefit, and I think there are more cuts to the welfare budget to come if the Conservatives are elected. These are uncertain times.”
Chris Carhart, 46, manager of the H2N Powerhouse gym in South Shields, added: “I’m sure there was an element of a pre-election give-away. He would have been trying to get votes. The budget was pretty much what you’d expect.”