The big question remains how to make the UK competitive, and we need to see a number of pro-growth initiatives to support this that involve the private sector to offset cuts in the public sector. We believe that keeping spending under control is also critically important to this aim and it appears the Chancellor's key objective is to ensure the country maintains its credit rating at all costs and that short-term unpopularity will be endured to retain credibility. Britain could well enter recession for a time in 2012 but we also remain of the view that the Eurozone will not go into meltdown.
Infrastructure was a major theme, with an aim to unlock £20 billion from pension funds for infrastructural investment and plans to safeguard the future of cross-border sleeper trains by making £50m available for upgrades if the Scottish Government would match that contribution and pay for the balance of the cost.
Increasing the levy on banks will see that sector continue in the firing line, particularly with the introduction of a number of initiatives aimed at providing liquidity in direct competition to those banks.
Aligning the interests of private investors by introducing 50% Income Tax relief for investments in business start ups is to be welcomed. Capital gains of up to £100,000 will be entirely tax free if realised in 2012/13 and the funds used for this purpose would be paid for by a freeze on the annual exemption limit for capital gains.
For taxpayers, some of the changes rumoured to be on the cards did not take place (such as the removal of tax relief on pension contributions and/or the restriction of tax free lump sums from pension arrangements). The Chancellor did announce that the state pension would increase by 5.2%, but that state retirement age would rise to 67 by 2026 rather than 2036. Public sector employees will be chastened by the news that there would be a 1% cap on public sector pay rises for two years from next year.
Our response: The Chancellor's Autumn Statement
The Chancellor's statement contained no real surprises given that much of it had been trailed in the media in advance. The fact that the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) figures for growth have undershot Government expectations backs our previously stated view that targets were overly optimistic and would not be met if, as was the case, the global economy continued to slow.