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Budget brings sod all for the market

Last week, I sat in a Las Palmas bar and watched the Scottish rugby union team mug 14 Englishmen and a Tongan. It wasn’t a pleasant experience – even the beer was warm.

And last week’s stinker of a Budget was equally depressing, if not more so. It’s now going to cost me more to drive to the airport and fly to the Canaries, and if I can’t afford the fare I’ll have to stump up more to drown my sorrows at home.

I guess the old adage ‘when you’re in a hole stop digging’ limited chancellor Alistair Darling’s options for the Budget. But his lack of ima-gination is stunning – even for a man clearly orchestrated from the rear.

As for the opportunity the Budget presented to breathe some life back into the housing market, Darling blew it. In technical terms, there’s sod all in this year’s Budget for anyone. It’s nothing short of a cynical attack on middle England.

First, there’s another kick in the crotch to those struggling with the burden of Stamp Duty. Relief on this levy for shared equity schemes – wow, that’s a vote winner, isn’t it? The enthusiasm for that slice of genius will no doubt take months to subside.

Then there’s the ineffectual sop of £8bn more for affordable and social housing. This sum apparently will allow the Housing Corporation to deliver 70,000 homes a year in three years’ time – another case of jam tomorrow. Then we have another plan to help key workers onto the housing ladder with new shared equity schemes. But if this plan is as well thought through as the current ‘assistance’ it will be no help at all.

Once again the government’s unfathomable obsession with long-term fixed rate mortgages reared its head, delivered with such passion that you’d think it was handing over the Holy Grail wrapped in the Turin Shroud.

Darling asserted that increasing the choice of long-term fixed rate products will encourage borrowers to fix for two decades – what a crock of excrement.

This sow’s ear is never going to become a silk purse no matter how many times the chancellor chants the long-term mantra. Our punters don’t want it. Even five years is an eternity nowadays.

And as for encouraging lenders to make long-term fixed rate deals more accessible, what is he smoking? I suppose they will be the same altruistic lenders whose obsession with market share and profit recently tore up the rule book on prudence.

I can’t see much return on investment this quarter. After the Northern Rock debacle, one might have thought the chancellor would have acquired a better grasp of the banking industry’s murky machinations. A Budget for the people? Let ’em eat cake.

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