Today saw the slightly creepy Just William lookalike, George Osborne, present his autumn statement to the House of Commons.
He celebrated the coalition’s achievements in bringing down the deficit by a quarter, as well as slashing borrowing, claiming “we are making progress” and “fronting the country’s problems, not ducking them.”
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However, despite not mentioning 4G throughout his 30 minute speech, it seems his figures have been skewed somewhat by the money he is hoping to bring in.
The government is due to auction off 4G spectrum to UK mobile operators later this year, although the process is unlikely to complete until early 2013. No-one expects the money raised to come anywhere close to amount raised by 3G – over £22bn – but estimates come in between £3bn and £4bn.
The Labour party announced what it would have done with the money if it had been in charge months ago – building 100,000 new homes and creating 600,000 new jobs – but Osborne stayed quiet in his speech, leaving us guessing where the cash would go when it came in
However, when MPs got to question the Chancellor after his statement, Ian Austin, the Labour MP for Dudley, pushed for an answer.
It turns out old Georgie boy was using the cash, of which an amount hasn’t even been established yet, let alone handed over, to make his figures look better.
“Asked Osborne re budget small print,” wrote Austin on his Twitter account (@IamAustinMP). “Borrowing only down by adding £3.5bn from 4G auction which not yet happened! Wld be up £2bn otherwise!”
An onslaught of questions followed, which Osborne tried to escape from.
“George Osborne has now been asked four times about the 4g budget small print sleight of hand!” tweeted Austin. “It’s beginning to unravel.”
There may be a timeline in place for the 4G auction but it has been a very bumpy road getting this far and there are still obstacles that could trip the process up.
Even if all does go to plan, I couldn’t see the Treasury getting its hands on the cash until just before the next budget report is due in the spring.
I wouldn’t rely on 4G funding that hasn’t even come through your letterbox yet George. Perhaps we aren’t making this progress you were so keen on selling to us earlier….