LONDON – Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered a budget on Wednesday which attempts to get Britain “fit for the future” and included measures designed to attract younger voters.
It was an Autumn Budget noticeably short on the “big, powerful, and revolutionary” agenda that Hammond privately committed to only a month ago, but there were some striking proposals which will make a difference to household finances.
Among the policies he announced were a 16-30 “millennial” railcard, increased funding for housebuilding, a freeze on beer and wine duty, and an abolition of stamp duty for most first-time homebuyers.
Here are the main points that might make a difference to your household finances.
Hammond started on an optimistic note, citing the UK’s record low employment rate.
He also cited an OBR forecast which suggests Britain will add 600,000 jobs by 2022.
The chancellor committed an extra £3 billion to Brexit preparations over the next two years on top of the £700 million the government has already spent. “No one should doubt our resolve,” he said.
“This budget is about a lot more than Brexit.”
Alcohol duty will be frozen.
As his predecessor George Osborne did in every budget, Hammond cancelled the fuel duty rise for both petrol and diesel that is scheduled for April.
The government will also freeze Air Passenger Duty for most passengers, while hiking it for premium fares and private jets. “From April 2019 I will also freeze short-haul Air Passenger Duty rates and long-haul economy Air Passenger Duty paid for by an increase on Premium class tickets and private jets,” Hammond said.
Hammond also confirmed a new 16-30 “millennial” railcard which will replace the current 16-25 scheme. The railcard, which discounts UK train fares by a third, will be available to a further 4.5 million people.
The government will also commit a further £2.8 billion to the NHS which will aim to cut hospital waiting times and improve A&E performance.
Hammond also discussed new measures for those struggling to get on the housing ladder. Hammond said he would commit £44 billion of funding, loans, and guarantees over the next five years to deliver an additional 300,000 homes per year on average to help address the country’s housing shortage. One measure includes £1.5 billion to help smaller firms build new homes.
In another bid to try and attract millennials voters who overwhelmingly backed Labour at the last general election, Hammond also said he would abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes up to £300,000.
Government borrowing — which is mostly used to service government debt — is forecast to be £49.9 billion this year, £8.4 billion than the OBR’s forecast in the Spring budget. Total borrowing is expected to fall for the next five years, dropping as a percentage of GDP from 2.4% this year to 1.9% in 2018, and 1.3% by 2021.
The chancellor said the government will invest around £500m in a range of initiatives from artificial intelligence, to 5G and full fibre broadband.
£160 million will be committed to the roll-out of a 5G mobile network, which is significantly faster than 4G.
He also announced a £2.5 billion investment fund to promote UK tech “unicorn companies.”
A further £100 million will be allocated to the Plug-In Car Fund, which reduces the price you pay for new electric and hybrid vehicles.
There were also measures for schools. The government will introduce a £600 “Maths Premium” for schools, for every additional pupil who takes A level or Core maths.
Good news for frustrated commuters: Hammond pledged £30 million to trial new solutions which could improve mobile and digital connectivity on trains.
Former Chancellor George Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse” initiative, which aims to boost the economies of cities in northern England, isn’t dead yet. A new £1.7 billion “Transforming Cities” fund will invest in transport infrastructure in cities in the Midlands and the North.
Hammond also pledged a £1.5 billion package to “address concerns” about the government’s much-maligned Universal Credit System, which is set to replace the current benefits system.
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