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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Lib Dem verdict on Budget
Charles Kennedy

Gordon Brown should stop blaming problems on the global economic situation because the British public deserves more than excuses, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has said.

He accused the chancellor of "buck-passing" and of producing a "cross-your-fingers-and-hope-for-the-best Budget."

While Mr Kennedy praised the government's attempts to reduce red tape for business, he argued that more could be done to simplify the tax system.

He also insisted that greater preparation was needed for Britain's entry into the single currency.

British people are paying the price for mistakes and they deserve more than excuses
Charles Kennedy
Mr Kennedy accepted that plans to increase borrowing were "sound" but claimed there was a "sense of denial" about how well the British economy was performing compared to other countries.

Business investment was falling in the UK but other countries were investing more in long-term recovery.


The country had been doing "significantly worse" than many key competitors, he said.

The chancellor was presiding over the biggest deficit and the lowest growth rate since 1997.

The Lib Dems leader urged Mr Brown to think again before blaming problems on the global economic situation.

"British people are paying the price for mistakes and they deserve more than excuses," he said.

On the euro, Mr Kennedy said: "We shall certainly be looking forward to the statement with some considerable interest at the beginning of June to see whether white smoke emanates from Number 10 or Number 11 - or indeed both."

He urged the government to scrap its pension credit which was "well-intentioned" but something of a "bureaucratic nightmare".

Instead, he proposed adding 5 to the basic pension, with 10 more for the over 75s and 15 more for the over 80s.

"The poorest pensioners are inevitably the oldest," he said.

The Lib Dem leader argued for the council tax to be replaced by a local income tax.

He also proposed to bring in a new 50% income tax band for incomes of 100,000 or more.

By doing this the average household would pay 100 less a year in local tax.

Chancellor Gordon Brown
"It is now time for the world's richest countries... to fulfil their obligations to the poorest"

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