The Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his first Autumn Statement this afternoon and set out to prepare the country economically for what he called “a new chapter in our country’s history”.
The impact of Brexit dominated the budget with the Chancellor stressing the need to prepare the economy for the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Mr Hammond would appear to have decided that one of the most effective ways the government can do this is by focusing on the need to close the UK’s productivity gap in order to create the “high wage, high skill economy we want”.
To facilitate this, Mr Hammond announced a National Productivity Investment Fund of £23Bn to be spent on innovation and infrastructure over the next five years.
In a welcome boost to the construction industry, the Chancellor confirmed government plans to deliver 40,000 new affordable homes in England as part of a £1.4Bn housebuilding programme.
The Chancellor also announced a new £2.3Bn Housing Infrastructure Fund that would unlock land for housing that would see the delivery of up to 100,000 new homes in areas of high demand.
Letting agents in England are to be banned from charging fees to tenants in a move to make renting more affordable. Currently tenants are liable to pay a range of administration fees including references, credits and immigration checks.
The move will mean over four million households are likely to save hundreds of pounds, with in those in larger cities likely to see the biggest savings.
The move has certainly been popular with young people taking to social media to welcome the announcement. However, somewhere concerned that the rising costs could see a rise in the cost of rent as landlords seek to claw the money back.
In terms of infrastructure, Mr Hammond took the reigns of former chancellor George Osborne’s key project – the Northern Powerhouse – and promised to develop the economic performance of regional cities by improving transport infrastructure.
He said: “Today we publish our strategy for addressing productivity barriers in the Northern Powerhouse; and give the go ahead to a programme of major roads schemes in the north.”
“We are investing in local infrastructure in every region of England. I can announce the allocation of £1.8bn from the Local Growth Fund to the English regions: £556M to Local Enterprise Partnerships in the North of England, £542M to the Midlands and East of England, and £683M to LEPs in the South West, South East and London.”
The Chancellor also set out his plans to see the UK become a world leader in 5G technology and pledged more than £1Bn towards achieving “a full-fibre network; a step-change in speed, security and reliability”.
Business rates relief will be available on new fibre infrastructure from April next year.