Perhaps the biggest surprise this year came in the form of Mr Osborne’s U-turn on tax credit cuts. His plans set out in the Summer Budget proved unpopular both inside and outside parliament and his U-turn on Wednesday was largely welcomed. The Chancellor underlined that this policy shift is because he has more money available than previously thought, thanks to the state of the economy and record low interest rates.
Affordable housing is another hot topic at the moment and the Chancellor outlined his plans to tackle the housing shortage in several ways. One headline grabber is through a three percentage point rise in the rates of stamp duty land tax (SDLT) for the purchasers of buy-to-let and second homes from 1 April 2016. Three years later, any capital gains due on the disposal of residential property will have to be paid on account within 30 days of the disposal. In a further move to address the crisis, Mr Osborne also announced plans to encourage the building of starter homes to be offered at a 20% discount on prices up to £450,000 in the capital and £250,000 elsewhere. He’ll also be introducing a London Help to Buy scheme which is designed to help people buy homes in the city.
Unusually, pensions were not at the forefront of the Autumn Statement although the Chancellor did announce that the dates for the increase in contribution rates under auto-enrolment would be pushed back six months to align them with tax years, saving £840 million in tax relief costs. The rate for the new single tier state pension, due to start next April, was set at £155.65 a week.
These announcements will continue to be developed and debated. The devil, on these occasions, is so often in the details. What do you think of Mr Osborne’s plans?