JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Chancellor, leave our wallets alone in your upcoming Budget! We're taxed enough and it's also unConservative

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JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Chancellor, leave our wallets alone in your upcoming Budget! We're taxed enough and it's also unConservative
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I trust this week’s Budget will be a low-key affair because I’m not sure the electorate has the stomach for any more tax rises – now, come April next year, or stretching into the future. 

After the announcement last month that both National Insurance contribution rates and dividend taxes would be hiked up in April to fund the seemingly bottomless pit that is the National Health Service, the last thing we now need is another raid on our pay packets. Especially against a backdrop of surging energy bills and inflation racing towards five per cent. 

Calmness should be the order of Budget Day. Boris Johnson’s ambitious (crazy?) proposals to make the country carbon neutral by 2050 – outlined last week – may have pleased some environmentalists, but they will cost a bomb (at least £1trillion) to implement. 

JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Chancellor, leave our wallets alone in your upcoming Budget! We're taxed enough and it's also unConservative
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Households will bear some of these costs through even higher energy bills and the requirement to replace gas boilers and petrol cars with (ineffective and expensive) heat pumps and electric vehicles. 

All rather daunting. And frankly, all unConservative. Leading the global charge on saving the planet is meritorious, but it will count for nothing if bigger economic – and polluting – powers (the likes of China) don’t do their bit. It will also be foolhardy if in the process we end up bankrupting ourselves. 

Mr Sunak. Restraint please. Leave our wallets alone. 

Green bond interest rate insulting 

NS&I, the Government’s savings bank, has finally announced the interest rate it will pay people who buy its green savings bonds – a paltry 0.65 per cent, fixed for three years. At best, it’s parsimonious. At worst, insulting. 

Available to buy now (minimum investment £100), the bonds will provide Boris with cheap funds to finance his grandiose green spending plans. Good for him, not for savers. 

Once bought, the bonds cannot be jettisoned until they mature. It means savers will not be able to switch out of them to take advantage of better deals when interest rates start rising. And with inflation on the march, 0.65 per cent will look increasingly unattractive. The only good thing to say about the launch is that it should not cause NS&I’s customer service to go into meltdown as happened during the pandemic. This launch should be a tepid affair.

Irony as MPs debate future of cash, Lloyds close branches 

How ironic that on the day that MPs held an important debate on the future of cash, Lloyds Bank announced yet more branch closures. Talk about cocking a snook at those battling to keep nationwide access to cash on high streets. 

The 48 doomed branches, details of which were announced last Wednesday, will all close by April next year. It will mean that since the start of the year, the banking behemoth has closed or announced the axeing of 148 branches. By next spring, it will have reduced its network of Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland branches down to 1,475. 

In Lloyds’ defence, the bank will still have more high street outlets than any other rival once the latest tranche of closures is implemented. Yet its move seems insensitive given the industry’s ongoing discussions with cash champion Natalie Ceeney over a new regime that will enable an independent scrutineer to assess the likely impact of a branch closure – or for that matter ATM – on a local community.

If it threatens access to cash, the scrutineer (likely to be cash machine network Link) will be able to demand that the branch is only closed if a shared branch (offering services to customers of all the main banks) replaces it. 

Those MPs who spoke at Wednesday’s debate all stressed the importance of legislation to protect high street access to cash. Some even called for a moratorium on bank closures until such legislation is introduced. Worryingly, John Glen, the Treasury Minister given the task of coming up with appropriate legislation, said he was ‘still contemplating’ what to do.

Maybe cash supremo Ceeney will save Glen’s bacon if she wins her way with the banks, but the longer he dithers, the more opportunity he will give the banks to administer severe haircuts to their branch networks. As The Mail on Sunday has long campaigned for: ‘Keep Our Cash.’

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