This Autumn Statement shows that the Liberal Democrats are building a Britain where everyone is given the opportunity to get on in life and sticks to our strategy to deal with the deficit, enabling us to release funds for key Lib Dem priorities. It is packed full of policies that deliver Lib Dem priorities, from a further tax cut benefiting lower and middle income earners, to extra investment in our NHS.
We can afford to deliver these policies as a result of the action we have taken to keep departmental spending under control and from taking further steps to clamp down on tax avoidance by multinational companies and by ensuring banks make a fair contribution by restricting the losses that they can carry forward.
Thanks to Liberal Democrats in Government, we are restoring the public finances to a sustainable path and delivering economic security. The deficit is forecast to have halved from its 2009/10 peak in 2014/15 as a share of GDP. Inflation is low, supporting households and businesses, and a record number of people - 30.8 million - are in work. By 2018/19, the Government is forecast to run the first surplus for 18 years.
NHS Cash Boost Secured
We have protected our world class health service by providing an extra £3.1bn across the UK for the NHS - including making £2bn of additional funding available for frontline NHS services in England in 2015-16 - so it has the money it needs to meet the challenges of an ageing population and increasing demand. From that we will use the £1bn of bank foreign exchange fines to transform the way NHS care is provided by removing the boundaries between hospitals and primary care, between health and social care, and between physical and mental health.
Another Tax Cut for Low and Middle Income Workers
Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander is delivering a further tax cut for low and middle income workers by increasing the Personal Tax Allowance to £10,600 in April, giving basic rate taxpayers a cut of £120. That means the typical basic rate taxpayer will be £825 better off in cash terms over the course of this Parliament. Someone working full time on the National Minimum Wage will pay £618 less in tax in 2015/16 than they would have done in 2010/11 - a reduction of 77%. 27 million are benefiting from our income tax cuts and by April, 3.4 million people will pay no income tax at all. In the South West the personal allowance increase in 2015-16 will lift 42,000 people out of income tax altogether and 2.1 million people will see an average real terms gain of £94.
Stamp Duty Reforms to Help First-Time Buyers
Stamp duty land tax will be reformed to help first time buyers get onto the property ladder. The new system, based on long-standing Lib Dem policy to help first-time buyers, is being made fairer so that people buying houses worth £935,000 or less will pay the same or less stamp duty than at present, and people buying the most expensive properties will pay more. From 4th December 2014, the stamp duty paid on the average house price will be £4,500 lower, while those buying a home for £5m will pay £163,750 more. 99.2% of home buyers in the South West would have paid less or the same SDLT if the new structure had been in place in 2013-14.
Making it Cheaper to Employ Apprentices
Lib Dems in government have delivered nearly 2 million apprenticeship starts since 2010 and we are working to give even more young people the opportunity to take one up. That's why, from April 2016, employers will no longer be required to pay employer National Insurance contributions for the 500,000 apprentices under the age of 25 on earnings up to the upper earnings limit. This means that employers of all apprentices under the age of 25 will be exempt from paying employer NICs. This reduces the cost of employing young apprentices and will encourage employers to increase the number of apprentices they take on. Over 80,000 employers have benefited from the Employment Allowance in the South West in the first 6 months since the launch in April and there have been almost 14,000 apprenticeships starts since 2010 in Bristol alone.
Extra Help for Small Businesses
Small businesses will get more help thanks to an extension of the doubling of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR). The SBRR scheme will now be extended for a further year through to 31st March 2016 to provide particular support for 575,000 of the smallest businesses. We have also announced as part of the Autumn Statement that the forthcoming increase in business rates will be capped at 2% and we will provide extra support for the high street by giving a £1,500 discount to retail properties. 190,000 properties in the South West will benefit from these measures, with a total value of £73m going to this region. In the South West, the government also estimates that:
- 136,000 properties will benefit from the cap on business rates with savings worth £8m. On average each property will benefit by £62 in 2015-16.
- 76,000 small businesses will benefit from the extension to SBRR with savings worth £52m. 54,000 of these businesses will pay no business rates at all.
- 29,000 properties will benefit from the £1,500 discount for retail properties.
£400m Boost for Business Bank
Vince Cable's Business Bank will be boosted by a further £400 million following an announcement in today's Autumn Statement. The British Business Bank operates on a commercial basis to support small businesses. It works with the private sector to support and increase the availability of finance and allows small firms access to help they might not otherwise have had. This extra money will be backed up by business expertise and shared risk so that small businesses get the best chance to be successful. In the South West the British Business Bank programmes unlocked nearly £80 of finance benefiting over 1,600 smaller businesses in the year to end September 2014
Loans for Masters Postgraduates
The UK needs high-skilled workers and Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable has reformed higher education and removed the student numbers cap at undergraduate level in order to meet the demand. Liberal Democrats in Government are introducing income contingent loans of up to £10,000 from 2016/17 for those under the age of 30 to undertake a postgraduate taught masters course. These loans will be structured so that on average, graduates will repay them fully, but they will beat commercial rates.
Huge Investment in Roads and Rail
A good quality roads network is essential to the country's economic sustainability. We need infrastructure fit for the 21st century, consistent with our economic, environmental and safety goals. Our Roads Investment Strategy - announced as part of the National Infrastructure Project - involves over 100 major schemes. £2 billion will be spend on the A303, A30 and A358 corridor, connecting the South West with a new expressway. £640 million will be used to improve the A1 to the west and north of Newcastle and £6 billion is being set aside to resurface up to 80% of the strategic road network by the end of the decade. Lib Dem Transport Minister Susan Kramer is spearheading an overhaul of our railways, improving accessibility at stations, carrying out a major electrification programme and improving capacity on key routes.
Lib Dems Secure Affordable Housing Boost
More affordable homes will be built in the next five years than at any point for more than two decades. The Government will invest an extra £975m to extend the affordable housing programme from 2018 to 2020. 55,000 homes will be built each year from 2015, giving a total of 275,000 to be built in the next Parliament. This new funding builds on the Liberal Democrats excellent record in Government that has already seen us deliver the first increase in the social housing stock since the 1970s.