This month's Budget is seen as something of an opportunity. Tax receipts have surprised on the upside, and the government's deficit this year is expected to be somewhere between £8 billion and £10 billion less than George Osborne predicted in November. There will be those who argue that Osborne has an opportunity to give a little back to those who desperately need it this time round.
There's no arguing that British families need every help they can get right now, so we have put together our budget wishlist for families.
1. Re-think Tax Credit cutsFamily Action has launched a pre-Budget campaign called 'Oi George' passing on messages direct from families to George Osborne ahead of the budget as to what they are looking for.
One key message is that families just don't have enough to go around, and key cuts to tax credits will make the problem even worse.
George Osborne could reverse these cuts and make life easier for hundreds of thousands of families at a stroke. This move has been supported by the Labour Party, with Ed Balls pointing out that the cuts currently mean 200,000 working parents will lose up to £4,000 in working tax credits. The question is whether Osborne is really that likely to embrace opposition policies at the eleventh hour.
2. Backtrack on child benefit cutsThere has already been significant argument on the plan to remove child benefit from any family where at least one person is paying a higher rate of tax - losing a couple with two children a total of £1,750 a year.
The government has already indicated it is having a bit of a re-think and the rumours are that Osborne will announce a much higher threshold, so the parent has to earn £80,000 or more before they lose the benefit.
3. Increase the minimum wageAnother message from Family Action highlights that one of the best ways to ensure that working pays more than being on benefits is to increase the minimum wage so that workers have the chance to earn more. At the moment the main rate (for workers aged 21 and over) is just £6.08 an hour, which they argue should be raised substantially to keep pace with rising prices across the board.
4. Speed up the rises in minimum tax thresholdsThis is right at the top of the Liberal Democrat agenda. The government has committed to raising the level at which people start paying income tax to £10,000 - it has just said it won't do it until we can afford it, and won't commit to doing it before 2015. There's an argument that this is his window of opportunity. Families on low incomes could benefit substantially from any move in the threshold.
5. Make childcare affordableThis was a key message from Family Action. Working parents are now spending up to £15,000 a year on childcare as costs rise, according to the Daycare Trust. At the same time 44,000 fewer families receive help with the financial burden thanks to cuts in tax credits.
Osborne has a number of options. Reversing these cuts are a common request from Family Action families. Meanwhile, subsidised nursery places would tick the box for many parents, but is an expensive option. Reversing the cut to tax benefits on childcare vouchers for higher rate taxpayers would certainly help this group, while Sodexo Motivation Solutions is calling for them to be extended to the 4.14 million self-employed people who automatically miss out on the tax break.
But what do you think? What support for families would you like to see from the Budget? Let us know in the comments.
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