The earliest post on this blog is from 24 November 2008 on the benefits of low taxation (actually the blog wasn’t public until nearly a month later, on 17 December, but that was the oldest surviving test post).

In it I suggested that the temporary VAT cut probably wasn’t that good a measure, and that efficient and effective government was a much better way of putting money in people’s pockets.

I still hold to that. I don’t think the VAT cut really helped that many people (I have saved a few quid over the year, but I’ve probably not spent any more or less than I otherwise would have). The poorest benefited least, because a larger part of their spending was on VAT-free or reduced VAT items. And I suspect the impact of the rise will more than outweigh the effect of the cut – not because the figures are any different, but from the purely psychological effect a tax increase has.

And then there are all the other tax increases. A 45% tax on high earners. A 50% tax on banker’s bonuses. In the current climate, in which being a high earner is becoming a mark of shame and bankers deserve hanging, drawing and quartering these will doubtless be popular. I’m sure Darling is hoping they’ll be enough to help people to overlook the years Labour spent cosying up to the City or that it was the financial powerhouse behind a lot more years of growth than years of recession.

The ½p increase in National Insurance will perhaps be less popular (since it is, effectively, a tax rise) and public sector workers will, no doubt, be disappointed to hear that they will be having a 1% cap on pay increases for two years (a good chunk of which will be wiped out by the National Insurance increase).

There was some other tinkering. I can only view his boiler scrappage scheme as petty politics since he clearly knows I’ve just replaced my boiler. And I’m sure Gala Bingo in Tooting will welcome the drop in bingo duty. But the deferral of the corporation tax increase for small businesses obviously has to be welcomed.

However, the key problem, the elephant in the room, is the borrowing. And nothing here really seems to be tackling the problem the next government will have to face – indeed, he raised his borrowing forecast. So while we have the promised bill to half public debt in four years there is nothing to back it up.

Darling had the chance of being the real Iron Chancellor today, putting politics aside and making announcements that might be politically painful but in the national interest. His announcements may not have been electoral bribes, but failed to grasp the nettle of public spending.

And, like a year ago, I come to the same conclusion – the best solution is good, efficient, Conservative government.

Last night saw Wandsworth’s last full council meeting of the year.  My main part was speaking in a debate on the results of the business survey carried out earlier this year.

It showed that business confidence was declining (even though it was carried out before the news started to turn really bleak) but Wandsworth was generally feeling more confident than businesses elsewhere in London and the country.  There was also good news that the council’s business support services are generally highly regarded.

What astounded me, however, is that the Labour Party really do seem to have fallen for the spin that Gordon Brown is some sort of world leader stirring everyone through a financial crisis.  They applaud his VAT cut, but fail to notice that shops are having to have 10%, 20% and even 50% sales just to get them through Christmas!

On a day he said he’d saved the world (and while we all make slips of the tongue, they often reveal what we are really thinking) we also had the German finance minister calling Brown’s plans, “crass” and saying they would take a generation to pay off.  It seems Brown is a world leader with no followers.

In the midst of this it’s down to Wandsworth to try and make things as good as we can for businesses in the borough, while no-one should be under any illusion times will be easy for business, hopefully we will be able to avoid the worst of it.

Today Alistair Darling will announce that Labour have finally seen the benefits of low taxation.

Or has he?  The BBC is currently reporting an expected temporary reduction in VAT to 15%, along with the introduction of a new higher rate tax band and the postponement of various other changes.  In other words, we’re increasing taxes, not immediately, but it’s coming.

And it’s questionable who will benefit from the reduction in VAT.  Any reduction in tax is not to be scoffed at, but if you take a low income household and consider where their income goes, much of it is spent on VAT exempt goods.  The weekly food shop – mostly VAT free.  Children’s clothes – VAT free.  Fuel bills -already at a lower VAT rate.

Of course, they’ll save a few quid on their Christmas shopping, but I suspect that’s small consolation when the parents fear for their jobs as we head into recession.

Is there another way?  Well, there was a good article in today’s Telegraph that points out that Conservative controlled councils are about the only places you see efficient, well-run and affordable government nowadays.