Autumn Statement round-up

George Osborne cogitates
"Millions of people will now have to keep working for even longer until they can get a state pension, in order to 'keep track with life expectancy'"
  • | by Kristian Dando

“Britain’s economic plan is working,” trumpeted George Osborne at the beginning of his misleadingly titled Autumn Statement this morning.

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

The statement itself contained few surprises – after all, it’s been described as the most-leaked Autumn Statement in history.

Anyway, here’s a selected highlight (or lowlight) reel of this year’s December fiscal frippery:

The general economy

Osborne said that growth forecasts for the year had more than doubled from 0.6% to 1.4%

He also reckoned that government borrowing is down “significantly” more than forecast, and that, by 2018, Britain may well be operating a “small surplus”.

Pensions

A lot of controversy here. Actually, it’s not so much controversy as outright fury.

Millions of people will now have to keep working for even longer until they can get a state pension, in order to “keep track with life expectancy”.

People who are in their 40s now look like they'll have to wait until they’re 68 to get a state pension, while people in their 30s look likely to have to wait until they’re 69.

Motoring and transport

The big one on this front was the scrapping of the paper tax disc, which will be replaced by an electronic system. That, and plans to sell off the government’s stake in the Eurostar to raise revenue. On the subject of trains, there were measures to try to curb the rocketing price of commuting by rail, too.

Oh yes, and next year’s planned fuel duty rise is to be scrapped.

Energy

There’s going to be a move away from subsidising offshore windfarms in favour of subsidising ones at sea. There’ll also be tax breaks to encourage fracking for gas.

Elsewhere, there was a £375bn investment package announced, of which energy will get a fair share.

Housing

Foreign property owners beware! You’ll now have to start paying tax on any gains in value on UK properties you own.

Elsewhere, councils are to sell off the most expensive social housing, and rundown urban housing estates will be ‘regenerated’.

There were more references to the chancellor “mending a roof while the sun was shining” than you could shake a vat of bitumen at.

Other stuff

Married couples and civil partners will be in line for a tax break, which will cost the rest of us about £700m a year, commencing in April 2015.

The personal income tax allowance will rise to £10,000 from April 2014, and then from 2015-16 it will be linked to the Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation.

Oh, and money raised from fines imposed on banks will be handed to charidee.

The responses

Unsurprisingly, shadow chancellor Ed Balls went on the attack. “For all their complacent boasts, after three damaging and wasted years, for most people – in the constituencies of honourable members on all sides of this House – there is still no recovery at all,” thundered Ed Balls across the despatch box.

Elsewhere, the Citizens Advice Bureau responded: “Optimism in the Houses of Parliament is not being felt in our clients’ homes. Despite the good news on growth, millions are still struggling. Small steps on energy bills and rail fares today will put a bit of extra cash in people’s pockets but the gain will be fleeting.”

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