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Britain awaits critical pre-election budget

18 march 2015, 17:30
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Finance minister George Osborne. ©Reuters/Toby Melville
Finance minister George Osborne. ©Reuters/Toby Melville

 Britain's coalition government will deliver a highly political budget Wednesday that will set the stage for a knife-edge election battle in 50 days' time, AFP reports.

Finance minister George Osborne of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party will deliver his 2015-2016 tax and spending plans at 1230 GMT before parliament.

The centre-right Conservatives, currently in a coalition government with the centrist Liberal Democrats, hope the budget will deliver a surge in opinion polls ahead of the May 7 election.

They are currently running at 33 percent support compared to 32 percent for the main opposition Labour party, according to a rolling average of opinion polls compiled by the UK Polling Report website.

Osborne has already vowed there will be "no giveaways or gimmicks" as he sticks to his long-term plan to slash the deficit.

However, media reports suggest that the nation's coffers will be boosted by about £6.0 billion ($8.8 billion, 8.3 billion euros) thanks to the brighter economic outlook and sliding inflation.

With just under 50 days to go until the general election, that could give Osborne room for modest sweeteners, while he is also expected to hike official economic growth forecasts and lower his state borrowing projections.

Reports also suggest that the salary threshold at which workers start to pay income tax will be lifted by £400 to £11,000.

Under Cameron's government, in power since 2010, there has been a strong economic recovery despite painful austerity cutbacks which centre-left Labour leader Ed Miliband says have damaged the economy and hurt the poor.

Most economists agree that more austerity is on the horizon whatever the outcome of the May 7 vote.

The coalition had previously vowed to eliminate the public deficit by the time of an election in 2015.

However, Osborne had admitted in December that he would miss the key deficit-cutting target.

Britain's economy grew last year by 2.6 percent, the fastest annual pace since before the 2008 financial crisis.


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