Aid goes to foreign police forces as our own suffers swingeing cuts

Shot of the back of a police officer's jacket with the word police written across the back

The government is under fire for giving cash to fund police services abroad - while our own police force is hit by budget cuts.

According to The Sun, in the last four years Britain's taxpayers have helped fund 23 new police stations in Congo, as well as supplying cash to forces in Bangladesh, Nigeria and Malawi.

Meanwhile, UK police budgets have been cut by 20% since 2011 and 17,000 officers have lost their jobs, with the Labour Party has warning that 30,000 more could be set for the chop under current Home Office plans.

"The authorities need to focus on bobbies on the beat at home, not overseas," comments Jonathan Isaby of the TaxPayers Alliance.

A government spokesman has defended the figures, commenting: "It is firmly in Britain's interests to support police and legal services in developing countries since it helps tackle the root causes of problems that affect us here, including crime, corruption and extremism."

The report comes as home secretary Theresa May accuses the Police Federation of 'crying wolf' over financial cuts.

"I have to tell you that this kind of scaremongering does nobody any good - it doesn't serve you, it doesn't serve the officers you represent, and it doesn't serve the public," she claimed.

"So please - for your sake and for the thousands of police officers who work so hard every day - this crying wolf has to stop."

Nevertheless, according to Police Federation chairman Steve White, the police force is being stretched to its limit, and the bobby on the beat could disappear altogether if the government goes ahead with its further planned cuts.

Meanwhile, the government has pledged to ring-fence 0.7% of the UK's gross national income (GNI) for international aid spending, honouring a commitment agreed by the United Nations back in 1970. It will mean spending around £12bn of taxpayers' money this year.

Those in favour point to the effect of the aid in increasing the UK's influence in the world, countering terrorism and generating lucrative contracts for British businesses.

In 2011-12, the Department for International Development (DFID) awarded 135 contracts to 58 contractors, worth almost £500 million in total.

However, many criticise the way in which funding is allocated. A report released last week by One, a non-governmental organisation founded by U2 frontman Bono, claimed that the world's poorest nations receive less than a third of development aid.

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Aid goes to foreign police forces as our own suffers swingeing cuts

In a surprise move, the Chancellor announced today that he was scrapping the alcohol duty escalator, which adds inflation plus at least 2% to the price of alcoholic drinks.

He also said that he would be cutting the price of a pint of beer by 1p as he did last year, and that duty on whiskey and ordinary cider would be frozen this year.

The duty on alcoholic drinks has been frozen for Scotch whiskey and cider, and cut by 1p for beer.

The duty on cigarettes, however, will rise by 2% above inflation, adding to the costs faced by people unable to ditch the habit.

The Chancellor told MPs that the number of bingo halls in the UK had "plummeted" by three quarters over the last 30 years.

As a result, he has decided to halve the duty paid on the popular numbers game to just 10%. There was bad news for those who prefer to have a flutter on the horses, though.

Fixed odds betting terminals in bookies will now be taxed at a higher rate of 25%, while the horserace betting levy will be extended to include bookmakers who are based offshore.

"Support for savers is at the centre of this Budget," the Chancellor said at the start of his speech. And he did not disappoint.

The biggest surprise was a revamp for tax-efficient individual savings accounts (ISAs), with the existing cash and stocks and shares accounts being merged and the annual limit being raised to £15,000.

This is up from a planned limit of £11,880 - including up to £5,940 in a cash ISA - and will mean that savers keen to avoid risk can invest up to the full amount in a savings account.

However, older savers will also be pleased to learnt that the government is planning to launch a new pensioner bond available to anyone aged over 65 and expected to offer rates of around 4% over three years.

Not all the announcements made in the Budget were surprises. It was, for example, widely reported earlier in the week that working parents will be given up to £2,000 per child to ease the cost of child care from later this year.

The plans should help to meet 85% of the costs faced by low income families, the government said.

But all families with children under 12 will be eligible, as long as the parents' joint incomes do not exceed £300,000.

All annuity restrictions on how you control your pension pot (if you have one) will be abolished. No longer do you have to buy an annuity.
Instead, people can take more of the money as a lump sum on retirement. The total pension savings that can be taken as a lump sum will be increased from £18,000 to £30,000 on March 27th. 
Tax on cash taken out of pension pot on retirement will be reduced from 55% to 20%.

Everyone aged 65-plus has the opportunity to save with a new NS&I pensioner bond, likely to be 2.8% for a one-year bond, 4% on a three-year bond. There's a maximum £10k per bond limit though.

British drivers have been given some respite from George Osborne. The threat of a fuel duty rise has been banished in the Chancellor's new Budget. Osborne claims fuel prices are now up to 20% lower than they might have been under Labour. 

The Budget included good news for working parents who can now claim a childcare subsidy worth up to £2,000 per child.

However, families where one parent stays at home to take care of the children will not qualify for the new scheme.

There has been a lot of debate about the loophole that allows rich investors to buy properties in the UK through companies, thus avoiding stamp duty.

And now, it seems, the government has decided to take action to stop the practice. "From midnight tonight anyone purchasing residential property worth over half a million pounds through a corporate envelope will be required to pay 15% stamp duty," Osborne said.

He also announced plans to expand the tax to residential properties worth more than £500,000.

The Budget included a number of measures designed to crack down on people who avoid paying tax.

Perhaps the most significant was the announcement that the taxman will be able to take money from the accounts of those who refuse to pay.

Osborne said: "We will give HMRC modern powers to collect debts from bank accounts of people who can afford to pay but have repeatedly refused to, like most other Western countries."

"Never again" should the welfare system be allowed to spiral out of control, said Osborne, as he outlined more plans to cap welfare payments - setting the overall limit for 2015-16 at £119bn, excluding state pensions and unemployment benefits.

The cap is in line with official forecasts for welfare spending, but has been highlighted as a very political move as it will require the future chancellor to cut benefits whichever party he or she comes from.

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