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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 18:58 GMT
Brown hails 'Budget for schools'
Gordon Brown

A large increase in funding for schools in England was the centre-piece of Chancellor Gordon Brown's 10th Budget.

Mr Brown said his long-term aim was for state school pupils to get the same quality of education as private pupils.

Other measures saw road tax on "gas guzzling" cars but no repeat of last year's pensioners council tax rebate.

Tory David Cameron said Mr Brown taxed and borrowed too much and was "the past". Lib Dem Sir Menzies Campbell said it was a missed opportunity.

Mr Cameron said Mr Brown was an "old fashioned tax and spend chancellor" who had given the UK the "biggest tax burden in history".

BUDGET 2006

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"Billions raised, billions spent. No idea where the money has gone. With a record like that the chancellor should be running for treasurer of the Labour Party," said Mr Cameron.

In his response, Sir Menzies said: "He could have tackled the unfair tax system. He could have made the environment a priority. He could have faced up to the pensions crisis. He could have addressed the problem of personal debt.

"He's declined to do any of these. This is a legacy from which it will be difficult for him to escape."

Long term

In his speech, Mr Brown described his Budget as one "for Britain's future to secure fairness for each child and invest in every child".

A Budget for Britain's future to secure fairness for each child and invest in every child
Gordon Brown
Chancellor

He said his long-term aim was to increase investment from the current 5,000 per pupil in state schools to the current private school spend of 8,000 per pupil, adjusted for inflation.

The "first step", Mr Brown told MPs, was to increase capital investment in state schools, spending on equipment and buildings, in state schools to what it is in the private sector by 2011.

Direct funding to head teachers will increase, targeted at the most deprived areas. Mr Brown said he could have used the money to cut taxes but "investing in education comes first".

Insulation

Under the road tax changes, which take effect on Thursday, Mr Brown said 50% of cars would have their rates cut or frozen.

There will be a zero rate for a "small number of cars with the very lowest carbon emissions", thought to include Smart cars and the Honda Insight, and then rates of 40, 100, 125, 150, 190 up to 210 for the "most-polluting" cars, for example a 2 litre Renault Espace, a 4.8 litre BMW X5 or a Range Rover.

In other moves, Mr Brown capped civil servants' pay rises to an average of 2.25% - saying it meant more for frontline staff such as nurses.

Personal tax allowance will go up from 4,895 to 5,035. Child benefit from 10 April will be 17.45 and the stamp duty threshold on house purchase would increase from 120,000 to 125,000.

AT-A-GLANCE
Growth 2% to 2.5%
More tax on most polluting cars
Petrol duty frozen
Spirits duty frozen
9p on cigarettes
Free national bus travel for pensioners and the disabled
No council tax rebate for pensioners

He said there would be more shared equity schemes for home owners and help for working women who want a wider range of career choices.

He also announced more money to train British sporting hopefuls ahead of the 2012 Olympics, which he said would be a "proud moment for London and the whole of Britain".

And he pledged funding for an annual "schools Olympics"

There will be help for pensioners and low income families to insulate their homes and a new fund to encourage "micro generation technologies" - thought to mean things such as solar panels on roofs.

The pensioners' winter fuel allowance will remain - but there was no mention of a repeat of last year's council tax rebate for the elderly.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I'd like a complete overhaul of the benefits system
Linda, Kirkcaldy

On the economy, Mr Brown said the country was entering its 10th year of uninterrupted growth, with the economy to grow by 2% to 2.5% in 2006/7 and so meet his fiscal rules.

Growth in 2007-08 was expected to be between 2.75% and 3.5%, while domestic demand was expected to grow this year by 2%-2.5% and 3%-3.25% in 2007-08.

He said net borrowing would fall from 2.4% of national income to 1.9% and in successive years, 1.6%, 1.6%, 1.6% and 1.5%.

Mr Brown said there would be a 16bn surplus on the current economic cycle up to 2011, which met his "golden rule".

He pledged to do more to back "our enterprise culture" and "modern manufacturing".

He extended the research and development tax credits and announced a new programme of summer schools for budding entrepreneurs.

In his response to the Budget, SNP leader Alex Salmond accused Mr Brown of delivering a personal manifesto designed to boost his "British credentials and prime ministerial ambition".

Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price said there was nothing in the Budget for those living outside London and the South East.




VOTE RESULTS
How are you affected by Budget 2006?
Better off
 15.44% 
Worse off
 53.61% 
No different
 30.95% 
16169 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
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The view from a hospital and a school



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