A week on from the Chancellor’s Autumn statement and it’s clear that it has somewhat divided opinion.
For anyone who actually watched the proceedings in the House of Commons, it appeared to take on a suitably seasonal, near-pantomime flavour, as Conservatives bawdily jeered at Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls making a suggestion that “It wasn’t only the badgers that have been moving the goalposts.”
Many political analysts had labeled his performance as less than spectacular in terms of shaping an argument for handling the cost of living crisis that Labour has promoted as its rallying call during the past few months.
I’d have to agree that the Shadow Chancellor may have lacked a little poise, but he made some solid financial points- asserting that families were now £1600 worse off a year than in 2010 due to ongoing austerity measures.
He also levelled at the Chancellor that this was in fact the slowest recovery witnessed for 100 years.
This didn’t play well from the Blue side of the chamber, with Tory MPs vociferously instructing Ed to recall whom it was that played a large part in landing us in our present financial predicament. Cutting through the verbal sparring of the two political heavyweights, there were in fact a fair few reasons for optimism from the Chancellor’s pronouncements.
Perhaps chief among these was the announcement that business rates would be reduced by £1000 for retailers and start-up firms- an unexpected measure that the Federation of Small
Businesses and region’s chambers of commerce have warmly welcomed.
This is being paid for in part by the realignment of the Funding For Lending Scheme (that has helped re-ignite the housing market these past few months) by re-directing money towards businesses rather than banks. Many observers were equally surprised at this change of tack, but it’s one that has been broadly supported. However, it remains to be seen what, if any, major implications this will have for our region’s economy.
Other measures that have been given the thumbs up by the business community have included a reappraisal of how apprenticeships are funded- with employers now being directly funded for taking on trainees.
This should at least start to make a dent in the sizeable youth unemployment market that remains a major headache for government.
All in all, George Osborne emerged pretty well from last week’s headlines, though there are doubtless many who would have liked to have seen business rates markedly reduced in order to increase the tentative rate of recovery that we’re presently experiencing.
pic: Andrew Parsons