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AS2013 (1): Key announcements
by Susie Hughes at 15:39 05/12/13 (Political News)
Chancellor George Osborne set out the Government's economic and fiscal plans in this year's Autumn Statement, claiming that the aims were on securing the public finances, supporting families with their costs, helping businesses to grow and equipping young people with the skills they need to succeed.
He said that the next steps in the long-term economic plan, including:
  • delivering sound public finances
  • helping hard-working people to keep more of the money they earn
  • supporting businesses to grow and create jobs
  • equipping all young people to compete in the global economy
  • increasing the incentives to work and providing a benefit system that is fair to those who need it and those who pay for it
  • clamping down further on tax evasion, avoidance and aggressive tax planning, ensuring that those with the most in society make a fair contribution to reducing the deficit
  • taking action to reduce levels of tax debt and to reduce fraud, error and debt in the benefit and tax credit systems.

While his speech to Parliament sets out the headline news, much of the details, including measures which might affect small businesses and contractors, will be contained int he supplementary material which is published after the Statement.

This was typified as the Government indicated that its plan to build a stronger economy was underpinned by its commitment to deliver a fairer society and that the Autumn Statement will help to provide a benefit system that is fair to those who need it and those who pay for it, and clamps down further on tax evasion, avoidance and aggressive tax planning.

Further detail on these points are expected in the attendant documentation.

However, his key announcements were:

Public finances
He announced:

  • 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
  • how a cap on welfare announced at Budget 2013 will work to control welfare spending
  • how future reviews of the State Pension age will work in practice
  • a review of the current fiscal policy framework to ensure that debt continues to fall as a percentage of GDP, including using surpluses in good years for this purpose.

Cost of living
The Government is:

  • freezing fuel duty for the remainder of this Parliament, saving the average motorist 11 every time they fill up their tank by 2015-16
  • introducing the married couples transferable tax allowance, benefitting eligible couples by up to 200 in 2015-16
  • introducing reforms to save the average energy bill payer 50, whilst maintaining support for the poorest families
  • extending free school meals to all children in reception and years 1 and 2
  • cap the average increase in regulated rail fares for 2014 in line with the Retail Prices Index

Help for businesses to grow
With the aim of helping businesses grow and create jobs and to provide help for the High Street, the Chancellor announced that the Government is:

  • introducing a cap on the Retail Prices Index (RPI) 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 1, 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
  • introducing a new tax relief for shale gas and support for the creative industries.

Young people
Measure include:

  • removing the cap on university places so more people can go into higher education it is estimated this will allow 60,000 more young people to go to university every year
  • providing an extra 40 million to increase the number of people starting higher apprenticeships by 20,000.

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