Audible silence for Osborne’s tinkering

If you couldn’t hear the cheering in the Borders yesterday after George Osborne announced a 5p cut in the top rate of income tax from April next year, that’s because there wasn’t any.

Although the proof of the pudding will be in the eating – and local reaction, likely to be as mixed as our metaphors, came too late to meet our deadline – a cursory glance at the Chancellor’s fiscal tinkering offers little evidence of a silver lining in the cloud of gloom engulfing the Borders economy.

Measures doubtless welcomed by the suburban movers and shakers in the south, such as options for civil service pay to be regionally assessed, will, on top of huge changes to the welfare benefit system, produce less demand from Borders consumers already petrified by a lack of confidence.

An article on commuting and related issues on page five offers a stark diagnosis of the regional malaise, manifest in poor public transport, low pay and high car dependency.

Yet there are no moves on fuel duty and not a jot on road tax concessions for rural areas.

In the week that Innerleithen gained superfast broadband – not through government investment but by winning a national competition – Mr Osborne announced the 10 major cities of the UK will receive funding for similar technological upgrades. Enough said.

With rising living costs, the increase in personal tax allowance will make little difference to the low earners here.