Six things we learned from the 2018 Budget
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After a speech laden with spending commitments, here are six things we learned from the chancellor's 2018 autumn Budget - and what they could mean for families and businesses in Norfolk.
FUEL, FUN AND WAGES
Families across Norfolk can breathe a sigh of relief as the autumn Budget promises a better deal when it comes to wages, pastimes and benefits for workers.
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the personal allowance and the higher rate threshold for income tax will rise to £12,500 and £50,000 respectively from April – a year earlier than originally proposed – in a move which will mean “£130 in the pocket of a typical basic rate taxpayer”.
The government will also freeze fuel duties for the ninth successive year meaning a saving to the average car driver of more than £1,000 a year. Beer, cider and spirit duties are also being frozen, amounting to a saving of 2p on a pint of beer, 1p on a pint of cider and a 30p on a bottle of scotch or gin.
As a result of his Budget, Mr Hammond estimated a single parent, receiving Universal Credit, and working 25 hours a week on National Living Wage will benefit by £890 in the coming year.
“POTHOLES OVER PUPILS”
Philip Hammond’s budget was branded “insulting” by a Norfolk education leader, who says the chancellor is more interested in “fixing Britain’s roads than children’s lives”.
The reaction comes after a £400m one-off capital payment to schools – averaging a £10,000 boost for primaries and a £50,000 bump for secondaries – was revealed by the chancellor. Yet it was offset by the announcement of £500m to fund repairs to potholes, bridge repairs and other “minor works”.
Scott Lyons, Norfolk secretary of the National Education Union, said: “£400m will barely scrape the sides when we’re already at a loss of £2bn in education spending.
“Parents are starting to see the gaps in teachers and headteachers, in the non-uniform days to raise funds and in the school trips for which a higher contribution is now being asked.
“It’s quite insulting really that they’d spend more money on roads than the most precious things that we have.”
He said the government is more interested in “fixing Britain’s roads than children’s lives”.
HELP FOR THE HIGH STREET
In a bid to keep the beleaguered high street afloat, the chancellor has dug deep by slashing business rates and freezing VAT, as well as giving small businesses an added incentive to grow their workforce by halving apprentice contribution funds to 5pc.
Business rates with a valuation of below £51,000 will see their rates cut by a third, and the small business VAT threshold frozen for two years.
Andrew Mower, the Federation of Small Businesses’ development manager in East Anglia, said: “We’ve been campaigning for targeted support for struggling small firms on our high streets and the announcement of business rates relief shows the chancellor has listened.
“High street businesses are under a huge amount of pressure, with current business rates bills adding to that strain. For far too long they have come up against an outdated and unfair rates system and it’s clear that change is needed.”
HEALTH AT THE HEART OF THE BUDGET
The chancellor put health and wellbeing right at the heart of his 2018 spending decisions, following the prime minister’s earlier announcement of an £84bn five-year deal “for our precious NHS”.
While promising to make good on this “historic” promise of a £20.5bn real-terms increase for health funding, there were more details on how that money would be spent.
The new NHS 10 Year Plan will include a new mental health crisis service with comprehensive support available in every major A&E department, children and young people’s crisis teams in every part of the country, more mental health ambulances, more “safe havens” in the community, and a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline.
Mr Hammond said: “These new services will ensure that people suffering from a crisis, young or old, can get the help they need, ending the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence and ending too the tragedy of too many lives lost to suicide.”
HELP FOR THE HOUSING MARKET
With house prices creeping up across Norfolk, the announcement that stamp duty has been cut for first-time buyers of shared ownership properties is likely to be welcomed.
All first-time buyers purchasing shared equity homes of up to £500,000 will be exempt from stamp duty, retrospective from the 2017 Budget.
A Budget document on the government website says the policy will not bring in money to the Treasury.
A new Help to Buy loan scheme from 2021 was also launched.
Mr Hammond also announced he would be providing £653m in 2021/22 for strategic partnerships with nine housing associations to deliver more than 13,000 homes.
It has not been announced as of yet whether any of these will be in East Anglia.
A further £500m was revealed for the housing infrastructure fund to support the building of 650,000 new homes.
A £650M SOCIAL CARE FUND
A newly-announced £650m social care fund could go some way to reducing strain on services in Norfolk.
The chancellor said he would make the additional grant funding available for local authorities for 2019/20, on top of the £240m previously announced to help the struggling sector cope with winter pressures.
He also announced additional funds for disabled people and children in care.
An £84m fund will be released over the next five years to expand children’s social care programmes to 20 further councils with high or rising numbers of children in care.
Whether Norfolk will benefit from this remains to be seen, but in March this year it was revealed that the east of England had above the national average of social care homes.
In January, Norfolk County Council had 2,700 elderly and disabled people on a ‘holding list’, who were waiting for a full care package to be put in place.