Today the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the Autumn 2017 Budget, where he outlined his spending and fiscal plans to Parliament, introducing great measures for Brexit, savers, new home owners, drivers and business owners in Amber Valley. I welcome the message and direction of the budget which shows a sensible evolution of Government policy. I also welcome the fact that unemployment is at its lowest rate since 1975 and that, although debt remains high, borrowing has fallen by three quarters since 2010.
There were some very welcome measures announced in today’s Budget and I have outlined below the measures which I believe will make a different to the lives of Amber Valley residents. If you’d like to read the Chancellor’s 2017 Autumn Budget in full, you can do so here.
Brexit – Ensuring we are prepared
On top of the already invested £700 million in Brexit preparations, today the Chancellor announced an extra £3 billion to prepare for Brexit over the next two years. The money will make sure the government and country is ready for day one of exit. It will include funding to prepare the border, the future immigration system and new trade relationships.
Housing – No stamp duty for first time buyers and further housebuilding investment
Although house building is at its highest level since the crash, housing still remains unaffordable for many. This is why I welcome the steps the Chancellor has announced to help more first time buyers onto the property ladder. Stamp Duty will be abolished on homes under £300,000 for first-time buyers from 22 November. First-time buyers of homes worth between £300,000 and £500,000 will not pay stamp duty on the first £300,000. They will pay the normal rates of stamp duty on the price above that. This will save £1,660 on the average first-time buyer property. 80% of people buying their first home will pay no stamp duty and 95% of first-time buyers who pay stamp duty will benefit.
The Chancellor also announced an additional £15.3 billion support for house building over the next five years – taking the total to at least £44 billion this Parliament. This includes £1.2 billion for the government to buy land to build more homes, and £2.7 billion for infrastructure that will support housing. £1.7 billion will be used to unlock small and strategic sites with £400 million to be spent on estate regeneration. I welcome these additional measures to ensure the Green Belt remains protected, whilst increasing housing demands are met.
Transport – Fuel duty freeze and a new railcard for 26-30s
I welcome the news that in 2018, fuel duty will remain frozen for the eighth year in a row. This measure will save drivers £160 a year on average and means that the average car driver is £850 better off since 2010. The Government also wants to help young people with the cost of travel and so has extended discounted rail travel with a new 26-30 rail card, to be introduced in spring 2018. This measure will give 4.5million more young people a third of their rail fares, helping them with the cost of living.
Supporting British Pubs – Duty freeze and business rates discount
The Government is further committed to supporting families in their everyday lives by extending the £1000 discount for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100 000 to March 2019. Furthermore, the duty on beer, wine, cider and spirits will be frozen. The cost of a pint of beer or cider will be 1p lower than if duty had risen by inflation. The cost of a typical bottle of wine will be 6p cheaper, helping budgets go further.
We have increased duty on cheap, high-strength white cider which is a key component of alcohol related harm and anti-social behaviour.
Support for Workers – Rise in National Living Wage and rise in personal allowance
The Government has taken action to help more people into work and to enable individuals to keep more of what they earn. From April 2018, the National Living Wage will rise by 4.4% to £7.83, meaning full-time workers are £2,000 better off since it was introduced. The National Living Wage for those aged 25 and over will increase from £7.50 per hour to £7.83 per hour from April 2018. Over 2 million people are expected to benefit. For a full-time worker, it represents a pay rise of over £600 a year.
I also welcome that the tax-free personal allowance will rise with inflation to £11,850 from April 2018 as this will help more people in Amber Valley keep more of what they earn.
Health Services – New funding for the NHS
I am very pleased that the Chancellor has announced £6.3 billion of new funding for the NHS. This will be divided into £3.5 billion invested in upgrading NHS buildings and improving care and £2.8 billion into improving A&E performance, reducing waiting times for patients and treating more people this winter. With more and more people using our NHS this additional funding will help to deal with those pressures and make sure the NHS is fit for the future. Patient services will be further protected by the provision of additional funding for agreed nurses pay rises.
Universal Credit – Reducing Waiting Times
I am delighted that households applying for Universal Credit will receive more upfront support. Households in need who qualify for Universal Credit will be able to access a month’s worth of support within five days, via an interest-free advance, from January 2018. This can be repaid over 12 months. Claimants will be eligible for Universal Credit from the day they apply, rather than after seven days. Housing Benefit will continue to be paid for two weeks after a Universal Credit claim.
In addition, low-income households in areas where private rents have been rising fastest will receive an extra £280 on average in Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. The switch to Universal Credit is a necessary change and is working but I am glad the Government has recognised and addressed the practical difficulties with the system.
Business Owners – Business Rate Switch Brought Forward
The Chancellor announced help for small businesses by bringing forward the planned Business Rates switch from Retail Price Index (RPI) to Consumer Price Index (CPI) 2 years earlier than planned, in April 2018. This switch will be worth £2.3 billion to businesses over the next five years. The government has also pledged to unlock over £20 billion of investment to allow small, innovative UK firms to scale-up.
Support for the Midlands – Infrastructure
I welcome the Chancellor’s support for the region more broadly and the Midlands Engine with the new £1.7 billion Transforming Cities Fund. £300 million will also be used to ensure HS2 infrastructure can accommodate future Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine rail improvements. To further give power to the people and drive prosperity across the United Kingdom, the Government will also make over £1 billion of discounted lending available to local authorities across the country to support high-value infrastructure projects.
Tackling Tax Avoidance
I also welcome the Chancellor’s focus on tackling tax avoidance, an issue which I have campaigned on in Parliament and is at the forefront of minds after the release of the Paradise Papers. It’s important that the Government introduces measures that will restore public confidence and the measures announced today to tackle tax avoidance and evasion are forecast to raise £4.8 billion by 2022-23.
Air pollution – £220 million Clean Air Fund
A £220 million Clean Air Fund for local areas with the highest air pollution was announced as well. Local authorities will be able to use this money to help people adapt as steps are taken to reduce air pollution. Possible ways the money could be spent include reducing the cost of public transport for those on low incomes or modernising buses with more energy efficient technology.