GEORGE OSBORNE has handed out his pre-election help for commuters and businesses even as he plans staggering spending cuts.
The Chancellor used his Autumn Statement to announce a cut in Stamp Duty which will benefit all but the richest home owner.
There was also a promise to freeze fuel duty, a full review of unpopular business rates and another rise in income tax thresholds to take more people out of tax.
For the North there were more gestures for voters, with a commitment to “encouraging” new rail operators to phase out unloved Pacer trains travelling through Leeds and across the Pennines.
Leeds Bradford Airport could also benefit from £38m in road and rail cash, though the Chancellor has not said where the money is coming from, only that a plan will be released and local city leaders will have to decide what to do next.
The Autumn Statement’s northern package also included a £10m education fund and even £1m for a Great Exhibition for the north.
Across the three northern regions the measures Mr Osborne announced, including road and flood cash from earlier this week, add up to a £7bn promise to the “Chancellor’s “northern powerhouse”.
Missing from the list though was a heavily trailed announcement of devolution for Yorkshire, with sources close to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg last night insisting the a generational hand over of powers and finance was just weeks away.
It is believed the delay is down to the Treasury “dragging its feet” after it was forced by the DPM to drop a plans for a Metro mayor model for Yorkshire.
There was also a severe warning that the worst of the public spending cuts are still to come
Officials at the Office for Budget Responsibility said over the course of the next parliament the measures announced would mean an average of 43% cuts if health, schools and foreign aid are protected.
Leeds MP Hilary Benn said the mini-budget fell short of what was needed.
The shadow communities secretary said: “For all George Osborne’s promises to the north, there was nothing in his autumn statement about deals for Leeds or Sheffield. It seems that what he was offering was far too little, and there has been nothing done for northern counties at all. He has failed to deliver on devolution just as he has failed to honour his promise to balance the books by 2015.
“Everyone in local government knows that Labour’s economic devolution offer will be much bigger and that it will apply to county as well as city regions, and will give them power over skills, building more homes, deciding on transport investment, reregulating buses, and helping the long-term unemployed back into work as well as enabling them to keep 100% of the growth in business rate income.”
Announcing his Autumn Statement, Mr Osborne said: “I said I’d put the Northern Powerhouse at the heart of this Autumn Statement, and with billions of investment in science, transport and new civic power in our great northern cities, that’s exactly what we’ve done.
We show today what can be achieved if you have the determination and ambition to deliver a truly national recovery.”
The Chancellor though has missed his latest borrowing targets, with the Treasury needing £5bn more than planned this year and £7.5bn next year.
Labour has said the official borrowing figures reveal the Chancellor’s mishandling of the economy over the last four and a half years.