Chancellor George Osborne has delivered his Autumn Statement to Parliament, setting out measures aimed at encouraging businesses to grow and helping families with the cost of living.
Key announcements aimed at easing the pressure on squeezed household budgets include:
- freezing fuel duty for the remainder of the current Parliament, which the Treasury said will save the average motorist £11 every time they fill up their tank by 2015-16;
- introducing reforms to save the average energy bill payer £50;
- introducing the married couples transferable tax allowance, benefiting eligible couples by up to £200 in 2015-16;
- extending free school meals to all children in reception and years 1 and 2; and
- capping the average increase in regulated rail fares for 2014 in line with inflation.
With an eye on helping businesses to grow and create jobs, the Chancellor announced measures including:
- introducing a cap on the Retail Prices Index increase in business rates in England to two per cent in 2014-15;
- introducing a £1,000 business rates discount to help the High Street;
- doubling the Small Business Rate Relief for a further 12 months from April 2014 to help 540,000 firms;
- making it cheaper for businesses to employ young people by abolishing National Insurance contributions for under-21s earning below £813 per week; and
- introducing a new tax relief for shale gas and support for the creative industries.
In a bid to help young people gain the skills they need to compete in the global economy, the Chancellor set out plans to:
- remove the cap on university places, which it is estimated will allow 60,000 more young people to go to university every year; and
- provide an extra £40m to increase the number of people starting higher apprenticeships by 20,000.
Austerity measures outlined today aimed at reducing the deficit include:
- a reduction in Whitehall departmental budgets for 2014-15 and 2015-16 of 1.1 per cent, excluding protected departments, local government, security and intelligence agencies and HMRC;
- details of how a cap on welfare announced in this year’s Budget 2013 will work; and
- how future reviews of the state pension age will work in practice, with the state pension age to increase to 68 in the mid-2030s and to 69 in the late 2040s.
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