Thursday, 5 December 2013

Key points from the Autumn Statement

What we saw today was a responsible Autumn Statement from a Government that wants to deal with the long-term problems this country faces. Growth is up, jobs are up and the deficit is down, but we still have a long way to go. This is not the time for false promises or giveaways, given that we are still spending more than we earn. Until we get a grip of this deficit, the debt we burden our children and grandchildren with will continue to grow.

The Chancellor announced a crackdown on tax avoidance, help for small businesses, further money to increase house building, and help for families with a further fuel freeze. The key points are these:

Fuel: I have always made the point that having a car, and filling it up, is not a luxury in my patch – it is a necessity. Therefore, I am delighted to see that the Chancellor has, once again, scrapped Labour’s fuel duty rise, and that it will be frozen until 2015. Petrol is a full 20p per litre cheaper that it would have been under Labour. This is real help for struggling families and businesses. Average petrol tank is now £11 cheaper every time you fill up.

Increasing the pension age
We have brought this forward, so that it will be 68 in the mid 2030’s. We should celebrate the fact that we are living longer – that is ultimately a good thing. But this puts pressures on the NHS, emergency services and our infrastructure. This also puts pressure on the Government’s finances, and so a responsible Govt has to take the right steps in ensuring that the age at which we can claim our pension is appropriate, given the longer years we are living. We need to move with the times, and I hope a responsible opposition will support this?

Scrapping National Insurance for under 21’s
I totally welcome this announcement. Youth unemployment is lower now than when we took office, in my constituency, in the region and across the country. However, it is still too high. Anything that makes our young workers more attractive to employers should be welcomed and it is good to see the Government taking action.

Employment is at an all time high. Jobs have to be the backbone of the recovery. Unemployment in the region is lower than when we took office, by 5,000. It is lower in my constituency than when this Govt took over, by 160. This Govt has a good record to tell on jobs, but unemployment, and particularly long term unemployment, is still too high. I think by incentivising businesses to take people on, through the scrapping of NI for Under 21’s, through the £2,000 NI holiday we have already given employers, and through lower corporation tax, we will continue to see unemployment, youth unemployment and long-term unemployment fall across the region. Unemployment is predicted to fall to 7% in 2015 and 5.6% in 2018.

OBR have revised figures for 2013 from 0.6% to 1.4%, next year from 1.8% to 2.4%. All future figures have been revised up.

Free school meals
All school children in reception, year 1 and 2 will receive free school meals. We know this helps students concentrate and increases their ability to learn. Also provide free school meals to disadvantaged students in 6th form colleges from September 2014.

Married couples tax allowance
This will increase along with the personal allowance – supporting and promoting marriage.

Small businesses
Up to £1,000 allowance in 2014/15 for retail premises with a rateable value of up to £50,000 – including shops, pubs, cafes, and restaurants.
Capping the increases in bills to 2% in 2014/15. This is lower than the current inflation rate, so could end up being a business rate cut.
We are extending the doubling of the Small Business Rate relief to April 2015.

Tax avoidance and evasion
We will be clamping down on this again, which will raise over £6.8billion across next five years.

The Chancellor outlined plans to run a surplus in 2018-19, instead of the huge deficits we are currently running. In other words, we will fix the roof while the sun is shining, not rack up spending and debt like under the previous Government.