Chancellor Philip Hammond has finished announcing his first Autumn Statement, during which, among other things, he revealed that he would be abolishing the Autumn statement itself.
“This is my first Autumn Statement as Chancellor. After careful consideration, and detailed discussion with the Prime Minister, I have decided that it will also be my last,” he said, explaining that “no other major economy makes hundreds of tax changes twice a year and neither should we. So the spring Budget in a few months will be the final spring Budget.” Instead, we will have a budget announcement each Autumn, and a ‘Spring Statement’ happening, believe it or not, each Spring.
Beyond these logistical changes, other headline reveals include Hammond’s plan to scrap letting fees, something he had been slated to announce in the run up to today. Letting fees - paid by tenants ostensibly to cover various administrative costs on the part of the letting agents, have been the subject of controversy lately. Citizens Advice revealed in a recent study that tenants were paying an average of £337 in letting fees, which have increased by some 60% over the past five years.
Hammond said that it was unfair that tenants were bearing the brunt of these spiralling costs. “Landlords appoint letting agents,” he said, and so “landlords should pay their fees.”
Citizens Advice’s Gillian Guy praised the move, saying: “People are paying over £300 to letting agents for what is often basic administration, such as checking references and running credit checks. This change will help the 4.8m households who now rent from a private landlord — 1.5m of whom are families with children.”
The move is one that will help a group that the current government has made a big point of trying to help - the ‘just about managing’, or ‘jams’, for those into the whole brevity thing. These are those who manage to get by, but only just (as the name would suggest), with little resilience in the face of economic shake up and inflation.
Another headline change designed to benefit the ‘just about managing’ is a change to the minimum wage for over 25s. The National Living Wage is to increase from £7.20 per hour to £7.50 per hour, as of April next year.
Hammond also announced that, for the time being, he has “no plans for further welfare savings beyond those already announced”, as well as reducing the rate at which universal credit entitlements reduce, so that rather than tapering off at the current rate of 65p in each pound, they will do so at 63p.
Other announcements included a reiteration of the government’s promise to increase the income tax personal allowance to £12,500, from its current level of £11,000 but the end of this current parliament.