Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Budget, Autumn 2017

Spreadsheet Phil was up on his hind legs in the Commons today at 12:40 PM to deliver his second budget of the year. He got a first bite of this cherry in March this year before the disastrous general election that cost the Tories their majority.

And, too late to do any good, he was in a give-away mood. In between jokes and some casual banter with fellow Tories behind him, he reported that growth was expected to less than expected; so were wages, but on the plus side inflation and unemployment were also expected to fall.

Then he threw money at every hot topic.  Universal Credit, the much reviled benefit, was made more generous.  Education was splashed with cash; especially maths teachers (although, strangely, the small print in the paperwork indicated no actual increase in spending.) There's going to be a new National Centre for Computing. 

Phil: Have some money, please, I insist...

The police got a bung. Police and Fire in Scotland got taken out of VAT. Seven new towns along the M5 corridor were mooted and the big finale - stamp duty abolished for first-time buyers. Subject to a maximum purchase price of £300K though, or in certain areas £500K with only the first £300K discounted. (The small print in this could require careful reading.)

Electric cars were mentioned; so were self-drive cars; diesel cars were practically the only thing that suffered a tax rise, but only new ones, and defo not white van man. Oh no, Phil was quite clear on that. So that's the diesel car market fooked. 

Then national living wage went up (£7.50 to £7.83); tax allowances went up: basic £11,850, higher £46,350. In this Spring budget it was £11,500 and  £45,000 - so higher rate tax payers have had a nice little bonus.

Tobacco got hit - RPI plus 2%, but alcohol and petrol were frozen; except the cheapest "white" cider. Scotland recently introduced minimum unit pricing for alcohol but it looks like Phil is going the other way and using duty to control excessive consumption.

Anyway, let's have a look at the numbers, with Spring also shown for contrast.

He's spending a total of £809bn, compared with £802bn in the Spring, but only borrowing £40bn compared with £58bn in the Spring. Debt interest payments are reduced by £5bn. Nice, and all down to quantitative easing printing away the debt for him.

Poor and sick people are the big winners with an extra £7bn on benefits and £6bn on the NHS. Transport and Housing have been scalped because the big house building give-away is going to be in the form of loans and guarantees - good old off-the-books stuff.

Phil also mentioned the possibility of compulsory purchase of land with planning permission when nothing is built on it. And councils will be allowed to charge double council tax for empty homes.

To conclude, it's a "safe" budget. All the sensitive causes have been blessed. No-one anyone cares about will be poorer. No hard decisions were taken.

So Corbyn had a hard time in his response speech. He did point out that pay was lower (in real terms, although he didn't say that) than in 2010. He then fell back on his old trick of mentioning people by name (but first name only.) Martin was on Universal Credit and had to go to a food bank; Clare's mum worked for the NHS; Tammy was a single parent suffering from a lack of policing. Sadly there was not much sympathy for them in the House.

Corbyn: A woman's mother's brother's sister's bins weren't emptied one week. Shame on the government!

To conclude: Spreadsheet Phil has learned his lesson and there will be no more tough love in the future. The news will only be good and spending will only increase.