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Has Alistair Darling done enough to revive Labour’s electoral hopes?

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So how was it for you?

Chancellor Alistair Darling threw the dice in his pre-budget report in an attempt to bolster Labour’s chances of winning the general election in 2010.

From hitting bankers with a one-off bonus tax to lowering bingo duty, Darling played to the Labour heartlands, while hoping to win back voters who have been telling pollsters that they are done with Gordon Brown.

Other measures included the return of full value added tax in January, a 2.5 percent rise in the basic state pension, a 1.5 percent increase in child benefit, as well as help for small businesses and various initiatives to boost the government’s green credentials.

All this while admitting that the recession was worse than he had predicted, with the economy shrinking by 4.75 percent in 2009.

The pensions runaway train gathers speed

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Few people are more on the pensions money than Scottish Life’s Steve Bee. And he has some strong views in his latest “BeeHive” post following publication of our exclusive story on the soaring costs of setting up “personal accounts” — the government’s brainchild aimed at solving a looming pensions crisis.

Reality seems to be kicking in early on in the dream, says Bee, who finds the whole thing “really depressing”. A chink of light amid the gloom came in this week’s Budget, he says: the extension of the ability of pension fund managers to allow trivial commutation of small pension pots should make things easier and cheaper for occupational pension schemes. But, sadly, such rights are not to be extended to personal pension schemes, a move that only serves to “drive a horse and coaches through the whole idea of our having one simple set of pension rules for all types of pension scheme”.

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