In what Phillip Hammond confirmed would be the final Spring Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out a budget to make Britain “the best place in the world to do business”. The budget did not really deliver any surprises, nor a ‘silver bullet’ to address the social care crisis.
Impending Brexit negations have slightly overshadowed the run-up to the Spring Budget, and somewhat set the tone of today’s announcement. Although interestingly, the Chancellor did not mention Brexit once during today’s speech. In his first and last Spring Budget, Hammond confirmed investment to build up a ‘Brexit buffer’ as the UK enters official divorce proceedings from the European Union. Hammond already confirmed on Sunday his plans to borrow £100 billion in a ‘Brexit war chest’ to alleviate any economic shocks associated with leaving the EU, and to help to build a “stronger, fairer and more global” Britain outside of the EU.
Despite the Brexit buffer, Hammond stated that the economy is set to grow about 2% over the course of the year, and with this, there will be significant fall in borrowing as he renewed his commitment to reducing the government’s deficit.
With the recent hike in business rates causing widespread concern among the business community, Hammond committed a £435m cut to business rates, and set out measures to ease the impact of the rates on the UK’s SMEs, offering short term support to businesses hit hardest by the increased rates. The Chancellor promised that any company just coming out of the small business rate relief will have the benefit of an additional cap, meaning their rates will not increase by more than £50 a month. With this, Hammond pledged to make the business taxation system fairer, by increasing National Insurance tax for the self-employed. This has attracted criticism from some that it will threaten the UK’s gig economy and entrepreneurial spirit.
Hammond took further action to stop businesses from converting capital losses into trading losses and to tackle abuse of foreign pension schemes. It is estimated that over five years the Government will save £315m as a result.
Productivity was also a key focus within the announcement, following the existing Northern Powerhouse Strategy. Hammond committed £200 million to broadband, and £270 million for disruptive technologies, and investment in infrastructure in the North and Midlands.
In regards to personal allowance, there will be an increase in the tax threshold to £12,500, and the higher rate threshold to £50,000 by the end of this parliament. The Chancellor also confirmed the introduction of the NS&I bond which will be available from autumn, and will pay 2.2% on deposits up to £3,000.
Amid increasing pressure from his party to invest more tax into public services, Hammond pledged an extra £2billion for social care over the next three years. Many commentators stated this was simply not enough to solve 7 years of underfunding.
Authored by Amelia Worley