George Osborne today confirmed Government plans to turn all schools into academies as he unveiled his 2016 Budget.
The Chancellor also unveiled a new sugary drinks tax but stopped short of raising fuel duty as he blamed the “dangerous” global economic situation for derailing his fiscal plans.
Delivering one of his most difficult Budgets yet, the Chancellor was forced to admit that government debt will rise as a proportion of GDP this year - breaking a key rule he had set himself - and growth forecasts have been sharply revised down.
But he insisted the UK was “well placed” to handle the worldwide slowdown and the deficit would still be wiped out by 2019-20 - thanks in part to another £3.5 billion of spending cuts.
His plans to effectively take schools out of local government control is set to be well under way by 2020.
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said there was “not one shred” of evidence that turning schools into academies improved performance.
Mr Osborne said he was able to give tax cuts for millions of hard-working families - with the personal allowance rising to £11,500 next year and the higher 40p rate going up to £45,000.
Fuel duty will be frozen for the sixth year in a row after he defied expectations of an inflation-linked rise and beer duty has also been put on hold, while corporation tax will fall to 17 per cent by 2020 and there will be tax incentives for smaller businesses.
*See tomorrow’s paper for a full round-up and reaction.