Autumn Statement 2013
Remember the days when we used to just have one Budget a year? Of course, the Autumn Statement under the coalition is very definitely not a mini-budget (according to them)- although a number of tax and benefit measures were announced. So what are the main ones, and how do they affect you?
Pensions and benefits
Leaked before the actual statement, the Chancellor announced that the State Pension age will be increasing sooner than previously advised, with a minimum age of 68 by the mid 2030s and 69 by the late 2040s. If you have children now, they won’t be able to retire until they are 101.
This means that anyone younger than mid-forties is looking at an increase in retirement age, to keep pensions in line with the latest life expectancy projections, apparently. George did not, however, address the issue of the wildly different life expectancies (figures from the ONS) depending on where in the country you live…
State pension and jobseekers benefits will also be excluded from the welfare spending cap- where the Government is going to tighten the welfare purse strings and allow the lower classes to fight it out amongst themselves for a share of the pot. And heaven help you if you become incapacitated at the end of the financial year, when it’s all been spent.
Cars and fuel
Another pre-announcement was the scrapping of tax discs for cars. Unfortunately this does not mean the Road Fund Licence is being scrapped, merely the perforated circle of paper attached to your windscreen. From 2015 the system will be completely online (most evaders are currently caught through number plate recognition rather than inspection of said perforated circle) and drivers will be able to pay for the disc monthly through direct debit, rather than 6 or 12 monthly as at present. The current rates for 6 month licences are around 10% higher than the annual disc- both this and the direct debit option should come in cheaper from 2015 with a 5% premium instead.
The next fuel duty rise has also been scrapped. After all the Government cares deeply about “hard-working families”.
On top of the personal allowance rising to £10,000 from April, the one policy the Lib Dems have actually managed to get through, the Autumn Statement confirmed some family-friendly measures that have already been wafted about.
The transferable married couple (or civilly partnered couple) allowance will become a reality, but only for those households where one member does not work, or works very little, earning £9,000 or less a year. Up to £1,000 of personal allowance can be transferred to a spouse, saving 20% in tax (£200 a year).
For those with small children, after reading a report by two posh foodies, the Government has also decided to introduce free school meals for every infant school age child (4-7) in years Reception to year 2 starting from next September. Junior children can fend for themselves.
At an average cost of around £2 per day, that equates to a fairly impressive £390 a year saving for parents. Of course, parents will be free to choose whether their child takes free dinners or whether they would rather send sandwiches, at least for now- the report the Government are acting on actually advised that sandwiches were so evil, they should be banned from schools altogether. Presumably along with all children with food allergies and other dietary requirements that would mean they can’t eat State-approved food…
The High Street
Even the Government has noticed that the High Street is suffering somewhat, and has announced a raft of business rates measures aimed at rejuvenating the shops near you. Discounts, £1,000 reduction in bills and reoccupation relief might mean that you see some new shops offering keen prices to compete with the not-cold-and-windy option of shopping online.
But watch out, you might be more likely to be served by a spotty teenager. A new concession for workers under 21 will save employers national insurance for these workers- up to £1,000 per worker earning £16,000- making them much cheaper to employ than those ancient 21 year olds.
There were lots of other figures in the Autumn Statement- some changes to capital gains tax rules on residential properties, and lots and lots of new figures showing how the last figures were all wrong. The new figures clearly show what A Grand Job George has been doing. We’ll all just have to wait until the next Statement to hear how wrong these figures were and how much even better George is doing just before the 2015 election…