The Autumn Statement (it used to be in November but no one's bothered changing the name) has become a Budget in all but name, especially so this year as by the time the real thing rolls around in March political parties will be in full election campaign mode. And, like the Budget, its contents have been heavily trailed. Here’s what we already know:
What’s been officially announced?
£15bn road revamp
This isn’t new money, but on Monday the Government fleshed out plans for what it claimed would be the ‘biggest upgrade to roads in a generation’, including digging a tunnel under Stonehenge, creating a dual carriageway to Cornwall and upgrading a third of M25 junctions around London.
£2.3bn on flood defences
Again not new cash (there’s the beginnings of a pattern here...). On Tuesday the Treasury announced more than 1,400 flood defence projects protecting around 300,000 homes would get funding. Water-logged locations to be helped include the Thames and Humber estuaries, but the Somerset Levels and Moors that were so devastated earlier this year are getting a measly £4.2m.
£2bn more for the NHS
Lately, NHS bosses have been making increasingly dire pronouncements about their funding shortfall and, lo and behold, the chancellor has proved that, like voters, he too cares about our beleaguered, beloved health service (prompting Labour to pledge it would spend £2.5bn more than the Government). £1.3bn of the extra money committed this year will come from other already strait-jacketed Government departments; the remaining £700m will be shifted from the existing Department of Health budget to the front line.
£900m to boost small businesses
This morning, the Treasury announced £400m more for its Enterprise Capital Funds, government-backed venture capital funds that invest in fast-growing small companies. It is also guaranteeing up to £500m of new bank lending through the British Business Bank. Finally, the Funding for Lending scheme (FLS) is being extended for another year, after being pivoted away from funding mortgages to business loans last year.
A new £100m garden city at Bicester
The Oxfordshire town of Bicester will now be famous for more than just a designer outlet shopping centre beloved of big spending tourists, with a plan for 13,000 new homes. Lib Dem Treasury minister Danny Alexander also announced a plan to commission house building on state-owned land for the first time.
Paying off South Sea Bubble debts
Apparently the Government still has £214m perpetual debts (i.e. that never get called in) from the South Sea Bubble, a huge stock market crash in 1720. George Osborne has proudly announced he’s paying that off, as well as a £1.9bn ‘war loan’ from WW1, as historically low interest rates means the Government can refinance those ancient debts cheaply.
What’s grinding out of the rumour mill?
Reforming stamp duty
In what would be a big pre-election crowd pleaser for a nation still obsessed with home owning, Osborne may well announce the ditching of the ‘slab system’ of banded stamp duty on home sales in favour of a more progressive tax. It would mean those at the bottom of the housing ladder paying less, while people forking out for pricier properties pay more. A ‘mansion tax’ if you will.
Nationwide chief exec Graham Beale was pretty happy about this particular idea.
A review of business rates
Bricks and mortar retailers have been complaining about business rates for, like, ever, but the chorus has become particularly loud in recent years as they argue that the tax on shops unfairly benefits online retailers. Osborne is reportedly announcing a review into the system, but it apparently won’t be finished until early 2016. No word on why it will take so long.
Devolving power to northern cities
The chancellor is also expected to announce the devolution of more powers, including budgetary, to Leeds and Sheffield. He unveiled a similar deal for Manchester last month, and will reportedly announce a £200m science institute for the city, partially funded by the private sector.
Abolishing air passenger duty for children
This would be a welcome sop to airlines, which would obviously rather passenger duty was ditched altogether.
A ‘Google Tax’
Osborne is going to announce a new policy to get multinationals such as Google, Starbucks and Apple paying more tax in the UK, according to the FT. No details were reported, so there is no hint as to whether this will actually be of any use without coordinated international action to crack down on tax avoidance.
£150m to help children with eating disorders
This cash will be invested in preventative measures to try and ease the estimated £200m per year cost of eating disorders. The interminably spare part deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is reportedly getting the honour of announcing this policy.