Treasury

Jim Pickard

We were speculating only yesterday afternoon just how irritating George Osborne must find it to have a so-called “Lib Dem Treasury spokesman” criticising the Treasury and the banks week in, week out. By the evening the answer was spelled out as Lord Oakeshott parted company with the government by apparently mutual consent.

I last spoke to the peer last Friday, when he obligingly furnished a quote for our front page criticising the bonus paid to Bob Diamond, chief executive of Barclays. Read more

Jim Pickard

I provided a link earlier today to Philip Stephens’ scoop on the Sir Gus O’Donnell memo asking for potential stimulus measures to have on standby if the economy deteriorates.

At this morning’s Downing Street press conference there was a hint that the memo had not gone down very well with senior cabinet ministers: Read more

Anyone walking past the main Treasury entrance today now will see a white sheet of paper stuck to the wall, which is supposed to cover up some graffiti.

A rather big and burly security guard has been given the job of fending off photographers and making sure no one sees what is behind it. Read more

The spending review did not end in the way most people expected. When Cameron’s top team gathered around the Chequers table on Sunday to tuck in to roast lamb and Yorkshire puddings, there was virtually no talk of squeezing out extra savings to balance the books. They had money to spare.

This was not the impression given to the rest of the cabinet, or indeed the BBC. But the truth was that the Treasury was sitting on a small cash-pile. After agreeing all the big budgets, there was £1bn or more left in the emergency fund for the quad — Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Alexander — to distribute.

“They went from the horsemen of the apocalypse to Father Christmas overnight,” said one official close to the final days of the spending negotiation.

This back of the sofa discovery is a feature of spending rounds. The Treasury always set cautious targets so there is some flexibility at the end. But how Cameron handled the mini windfall is revealing. It gives us an insight into both his priorities and the methods he used to bluff the BBC into paying for the World Service. Read more

Here is an idea for the new “nudge unit” in Downing Street.

David Cameron has pledged to protect the £2.7bn winter fuel payments to the over-60s — but he never promised to keep the name.

Surely it is time to stop people claiming these handouts by calling them something more appropriate that would deter the wealthy middle-classes? After all, the payment has nothing to do with fuel. Done properly, this cunning intervention could save hundreds of millions of pounds — while still permitting the needy to claim.

Neil O’Brien of Policy Exchange thought something absurdly bureaucratic would do the trick. Would you bother to claim the Voluntary Age-Related Season Specific Dependency Credit? And would you be able to ever find the forms on the internet?

My preference is for something much more unappetising. Perhaps the Old Age Support Ration? That would put off Ken Clarke and Vince Cable from sending in the application. Or maybe the Elderly and Infirm Support and Sustenance Payment? Read more

Jim Pickard

The always self-depracating Alistair Darling* remembers today how he arrived in the Treasury without any inkling of the global crisis about to hit financial markets. I like the quote, not only because he is kind about the FT but also because it’s an insight into just how much of a shock the credit crunch was to many policy-makers.

When I was appointed Chancellor in the summer of 2007, I gave my first interview to the Financial Times – a paper for which I have the highest respect. Read more

George Osborne sits down at 13.28 – that’s it, the Budget has been delivered. Now Harriet Harman will respond, but thank you for comments and for joining us.

Jim Pickard, political correspondent: Osborne’s promise to return to “financial prudence”… Could this be a dig at Gordon Brown by any chance? This was in happier days his favourite expression.

Jamie Chisholm, FT Global Markets Commentator: Gilts back to where we started, down 8 basis points at 3.45 per cent. Sterling little changed.

Child element of tax credit to be increased

Matthew Vincent: The chances of exchanging contracts on your second home by 5.30pm today look a bit remote. Best phone your solicitors and give them the hurry up…

Robert Shrimsley, editor of FT.com: Is it my imagination or is George Osbrone saying “coalition government” much more now that he’s got to the nastiest parts.

 Read more