Yesterday (23rd November) the Chancellor delivered his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons. The OBR forecast that the UK economy will grow by 2.1% in 2016 and is predicted to be the fastest growing major advanced economy in the world. The deficit will also be reduced to 3.5% of GDP this year before falling to 0.7% of GDP in 2020/21. This will be the lowest for two decades and mean that the debt as a proportion of national income will fall for the first time since 2001/02.
The Chancellor announced a raft of measures to help businesses, families and the individual. Local Transport will receive a boost with the National Productivity Investment Fund providing £1.1bn in new funding to relieve congestion and deliver upgrades on local roads and public transport. An extra £220m will be invested to tackle key pinch points across the country and hopefully this includes Devon. While there were no specific announcements on the South West Rail Line there was a commitment by both the Chancellor, and later on the Secretary of State for Transport, that Dawlish remains a priority. Further announcements were promised in the coming weeks with regard to the funding of the Peninsula Rail Task Force report.
Broadband was also given a boost with £1bn to be invested by 2020/21 and £400m to be matched by private finance to help deploy full fibre access. This money is also earmarked for 5G communications. While 5G is welcome, Anne Marie has made her priorities clear to the Chancellor that areas such as ours, where 2% still cannot access 2Mbps, must be a priority before we start investing more money elsewhere.
For families there was welcome news about an increase in the Personal Allowance. From April those earning less than £11,500 will pay no tax at all and by 2020 this will increase to £12,500. The higher rate band will also rise to £50,000 by the end of this parliament with both of these rising by CPI thereafter. The Chancellor acknowledged that low interest rates have helped those with a mortgage but hampered those with savings. A new NS&I 3 year savings bond will be launched next year with a 2.2% interest rate – a market leader.
There was also a boost for families looking to buy their own home. Letting agent fees will be scrapped meaning more money for those saving for a deposit. On top of this an additional £1.4bn will be put into building 40,000 additional affordable homes. Anne Marie welcomes this measure but is keen to ensure these homes are genuinely affordable for local residents in the constituency looking to buy their first home.
Overall Anne Marie was pleased with what the Chancellor had to offer constituents in the Autumn Statement including the additional £500m given to the Ministry of Justice to recruit 2,500 extra prison officers for our prisons. Anne Marie said ‘The autumn statement gave the framework for this government to continue to help working people. Now it is up to local MPs to make sure they deliver key infrastructure projects such as the South West Railway and Broadband as promised.’