Only a few days ago, George Osborne delivered the first Autumn Statement under the Conservative government – a worrying day for those relying on the state for survival as it is.
Previously, he had been held back by the Liberal Democrats, but with a Conservative majority ruling our most recent election, Osborne was free to set out spending plans as he wished.
The statement was something of a concern before its release. With threats to cut Child Tax credits as well as disability allowance, the statement posed a threat to the most vulnerable people in our society, so many were apprehensive as to what Osborne might say.
The Statement ended up slightly less severe than anticipated for most of us. Child Tax credits were not affected, after petitions and an encouraging vote from the House of Lords had their say. This plan would have saved £4.4bn, and as a result the Government will breach its own spending cap. The members of society who depend on the tax credits will not be affected – almost definitely the better option.
Osborne was quoted as saying that we are not trying to “rescue Britain” but to “rebuild Britain”. He intends to make Britain the most prosperous country in the world – a large feat considering how small we are in comparison to other major nations.
There was a brighter element to the statement – the UK’s public finances have improved by £27bn, allowing us to “fix the roof while the sun is shining”.
Alongside this, threatened cuts to police services are not going ahead, meaning that Britain can continue on the current levels we have. Some may still see this as a negative, with previous cuts meaning our levels are low as it is, but the lack of continuing cuts is better than nothing.
Our borrowing statements will continue to drop over the next few years, as announced through Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review. Over the course of the next year, Britain will borrow £73.5bn, then £49.9bn, to £24.8bn in 2017/18, and to £4.6bn in 2018/19.
Providing all of this goes ahead as planned, by the financial year of 2019/2020, the country will be in a surplus of £10.1bn.
A controversial element of the Statement is the aspect of Tampon Tax. According to EU regulations, the 5% tax currently paid cannot be dropped, so instead, the tax will go towards therapy for women who have experienced sexual abuse or rape. This is a huge positive, as women who would have previously had to fund therapy will now be able to claim it through the Government, however it is still a sore point for many, with sanitary products still being taxed at the 5 percent reduced-rate VAT.
Some benefits from the review include anticipated creation of 1m more jobs over the next five years – although still a contrast to the Conservatives’ promise of creating 2m.
Local councils will be given 10m to help the homeless, and an Apprenticeship Levy means that young people will be ever so slightly better paid.
The age of retirement will go up, but so will the allowance – a bitter point for those hoping to claim soon.
More than half a trillion has been promised to fund the NHS over the course of the review, but this comes at the cost of cutting student nurses’ grants with replacement loans. The NHS will see the biggest chunk of money and rightfully deserve it.
Overall the Autumn Statement has been more positive than everyone anticipated, with those needing the most money able to keep their allowances. As predicted, there are many downfalls, and those at the top of the ladder are barely affected at all, but generally there was a positive outcome.