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While this is a change to the previous schedule of analysing Liz Truss’s premiership, more about which next week, there are references below as to why hers and Kwasi Kwarteng’s plan was the right one for the UK.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his Autumn Statement — a Labourite Conservative budget — on Thursday, November 17, 2022.

Compared with Kwasi Kwarteng’s fiscal event of September 23, this will be a disaster for most middle class Britons.

It was clear that Hunt designed this budget to placate the all-hallowed — for whatever reason — OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) and the markets. Stability is their watchword. Growth, regardless of what Hunt said yesterday, plays little part in our economy for the foreseeable future.

Unlike Kwarteng’s, which did focus on growth, Hunt’s statement had little to no consideration of the British taxpayer in a cost of living crisis.

What Hunt said

Before going into Hunt’s address, Guido Fawkes has a brief summary and the full detail from the Treasury, a 70-page document.

Below are excerpts from Hunt’s Autumn Statement to the House of Commons (emphases mine):

… today we deliver a plan to tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild our economy. Our priorities are stability, growth and public services. We also protect the vulnerable, because to be British is to be compassionate and this is a compassionate Conservative Government.

Remember when then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak told us we did not have to worry about the cost of borrowing and borrowing itself during the pandemic? Well, now we have to worry:

Most countries are still dealing with the fallout from a once-in-a-century pandemic. The furlough scheme, the vaccine roll-out and the response of the NHS did our country proud, but they all have to be paid for.

Hunt paid homage to the Bank of England and had a poke at Kwarteng for not doing so:

So the Bank of England, which has done an outstanding job since its independence, now has my wholehearted support in its mission to defeat inflation and I today confirm we will not change its remit. But we need fiscal and monetary policy to work together, and that means the Government and the Bank working in lockstep.

He delivered a deeper attack on Kwarteng:

I understand the motivation of my predecessor’s mini-Budget and he was correct to identify growth as a priority, but unfunded tax cuts are as risky as unfunded spending, which is why we reversed the planned measures quickly. As a result, Government borrowing has fallen, the pound has strengthened and the OBR says today that the lower interest rates generated by the Government’s actions are already benefiting our economy and public finances. But credibility cannot be taken for granted and yesterday’s inflation figures show we must continue a relentless fight to bring it down, including a rock solid commitment to rebuild our public finances.

He bowed before the all-powerful OBR, whose forecasts have not been terribly accurate over the past few years. Let us see if these come true in the coming months:

Richard Hughes and his team at the OBR today lay out starkly the impact of global headwinds on the UK economy, and I am enormously grateful to him and his team for their thorough work. The OBR forecasts the UK’s inflation rate to be 9.1% this year and 7.4% next year. It confirms that our actions today help inflation to fall sharply from the middle of next year. It also judges that the UK, like other countries, is now in recession. Overall this year, the economy is still forecast to grow by 4.2%. GDP then falls in 2023 by 1.4%, before rising by 1.3%, 2.6% and 2.7% in the following three years. The OBR says higher energy prices explain the majority of the downward revision in cumulative growth since March. It also expects a rise in unemployment from 3.6% today to 4.9% in 2024, before falling to 4.1%.

This is Hunt’s strategy, with the blessing of the OBR and borrowing Sunak’s morality from the August leadership campaign about leaving debts to the next generation:

I also confirm two new fiscal rules. The first is that underlying debt must fall as a percentage of GDP by the fifth year of a rolling five-year period. The second is that public sector borrowing over the same period must be below 3% of GDP. The plan I am announcing today meets both rules.

Today’s statement delivers a consolidation of £55 billion, and means inflation and interest rates end up significantly lower. We achieve this in a balanced way. In the short term, as growth slows and unemployment rises, we will use fiscal policy to support the economy. The OBR confirms that, because of our plans, the recession is shallower and inflation is reduced. Unemployment is also lower, with about 70,000 jobs saved as a result of our decisions today. Then, once growth returns, we increase the pace of consolidation to get debt falling. This further reduces the pressure on the Bank to raise interest rates, because as Conservatives we do not leave our debts to the next generation.

So this is a balanced path to stability, tackling inflation to reduce the cost of living and protect pensioner savings, while supporting the economy on a path to growth. But it means taking difficult decisions.

Hunt then discussed the fiscal drag elements of the budget. Fiscal drag means drawing the unsuspecting into paying new and more tax:

I start with personal taxes. Asking more from those who have more means that the first difficult decision I take on tax is to reduce the threshold at which the 45p rate becomes payable from £150,000 to £125,140. Those earning £150,000 or more will pay just over £1,200 more in tax every year. We are also taking difficult decisions on tax-free allowances. I am maintaining at current levels the income tax personal allowance, higher rate threshold, main national insurance thresholds and the inheritance tax thresholds for a further two years, taking us to April 2028. Even after that, we will still have the most generous set of tax-free allowances of any G7 country.

I was amazed he could talk about 2028 with a straight face. By then, we will probably have a Labour government. Oh well, he’s done their work for them.

Continuing on tax rises, he said:

I am also reforming allowances on unearned income. The dividend allowance will be cut from £2,000 to £1,000 next year, and then to £500 from April 2024. The annual exempt amount for capital gains tax will be cut from £12,300 to £6,000 next year, and then £3,000 from April 2024. Those changes still leave us with more generous allowances than countries such as Germany, Ireland, France, and Canada.

Because the OBR forecasts that half of all new vehicles will be electric by 2025, to make our motoring tax system fairer, I have decided that from then electric vehicles will no longer be exempt from vehicle excise duty. Company car tax rates will remain lower for electric vehicles, and I have listened to industry bodies and will limit rate increases to 1 percentage point a year for three years from 2025.

At least he kept one thing from Kwarteng’s statement:

The OBR expects housing activity to slow over the next two years, so the stamp duty cuts announced in the mini-Budget will remain in place but only until 31 March 2025. After that, I will sunset the measure, creating an incentive to support the housing market, and the jobs associated with it, by boosting transaction during the period when the economy most needs it.

He won’t even be Chancellor then.

Moving on to businesses:

I now turn to business taxes. Although I have decided to freeze the employers national insurance contributions threshold until April 2028, we will retain the employment allowance at its new higher level of £5,000. That means that 40% of all businesses will pay no NICs at all. The VAT threshold is already more than twice as high as the EU and OECD averages. I will maintain it at that level until March 2026.

Then came the windfall tax:

Can I just say that any such tax should be temporary, not deter investment and recognise the cyclical nature of energy businesses? So, taking account of that, I have decided that from 1 January until March 2028 we will increase the energy profits levy from 25% to 35%. The structure of our energy market also creates windfall profits for low-carbon electricity generation, so we have decided to introduce, from 1 January, a new, temporary 45% levy on electricity generators. Together, those measures will raise £14 billion next year.

Business rates have been a thorn in the side of those enterprises on our high streets. Here, it would seem, Hunt offered some relief:

Finally, I turn to business rates. It is an important principle that bills should accurately reflect market values, so we will proceed with the revaluation of business properties from April 2023, but I will soften the blow on businesses with a nearly £14 billion tax cut over the next five years. Nearly two thirds of properties will not pay a penny more next year and thousands of pubs, restaurants and small high street shops will benefit. That will include a new Government-funded transitional relief scheme, as called for by the CBI, the British Retail Consortium, the Federation of Small Businesses and others, benefiting around 700,000 businesses.

Then he turned to people on benefits, proving that Sunak’s furlough scheme during the pandemic was more than adequate:

… I am proud to live in a country with one of the most comprehensive safety nets anywhere in the world. But I am also concerned that we have seen a sharp increase in economically inactive working-age adults of about 630,000 people since the start of the pandemic. Employment levels have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, which is bad for businesses who cannot fill vacancies and bad for people missing out on the opportunity to do well for themselves and their families, so the Prime Minister has asked the Work and Pensions Secretary to do a thorough review of issues holding back workforce participation, to conclude early in the new year.

Alongside that, I am also committed to helping people already in work to raise their incomes, progress in work and become financially independent. So we will ask over 600,000 more people on universal credit to meet with a work coach so that they can get the support that they need to increase their hours or earnings. I have also decided to move back the managed transition of people from employment and support allowance on to universal credit to 2028, and will invest an extra £280 million in the DWP to crack down on benefit fraud and error over the next two years. The Government’s review of the state pension age will be published in early 2023.

He then discussed foreign spending:

… I salute the citizens of another country right on the frontline … the brave people of Ukraine. The United Kingdom has given them military support worth £2.3 billion since the start of Putin’s invasion, the second highest contribution in the world after the United States, which demonstrates that our commitment to democracy and open societies remains steadfast. In that context, the Prime Minister and I both recognise the need to increase defence spending. But before we make that commitment, it is necessary to revise and update the integrated review, written as it was before the Ukraine invasion. I have asked for that vital work to be completed ahead of the next Budget and today I confirm that we will continue to maintain the defence budget at at least 2% of GDP to be consistent with our NATO commitment.

I was pleased to hear that overseas aid will stay at 0.5%:

Another important international commitment is to overseas aid. The OBR’s forecasts show a significant shock to public finances, so it will not be possible to return to the 0.7% target until the fiscal situation allows. We remain fully committed to that target, and the plans I have set out today assume that official development assistance spending will remain around 0.5% for the forecast period. As a percentage of GNI, we were the third highest donor in the G7 last year, and I am proud that our aid commitment has saved thousands of lives around the world.

Net Zero is still going ahead:

I also confirm that, despite the economic pressures, we remain fully committed to the historic Glasgow climate pact agreed at COP26, including a 68% reduction in our own emissions by 2030.

He discussed schools, beginning with those in England:

we have risen nine places in the global league tables for maths and reading in the last seven years.

… as Chancellor I want to know the answer to one simple question: will every young person leave the education system with the skills they would get in Japan, Germany or Switzerland? So, I have appointed Sir Michael Barber to advise me and my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary on the implementation of our skills reform programme.

Some have suggested putting VAT on independent school fees as a way of increasing core funding for schools, which would raise about £1.7 billion. But according to certain estimates, that would result in up to 90,000 children from the independent sector switching to state schools, giving with one hand only to take away with another.

So instead of being ideological, I am going to be practical: because we want school standards to continue to rise for every single child, we are going to do more than protect the schools budget—we are going to increase it. I can announce today that next year and the year after, we will invest an extra £2.3 billion per annum in our schools.

He has asked a former Labour MP, Patricia Hewitt, to help him reform the NHS. Oh, my days:

I have asked the former Health Secretary and chair of the Norfolk and Waveney integrated care system, Patricia Hewitt, to help me and the Health Secretary to achieve that by advising us on how to make sure that the new integrated care boards, the local NHS bodies, operate efficiently and with appropriate autonomy and accountability. I have also had discussions with NHS England about the inflationary pressures on their budgets.

More money will be pumped into the system:

With £3.3 billion for the NHS and £4.7 billion for social care, there is a record £8 billion package for our health and care system. That is a Conservative Government putting the NHS first.

Barnett consequentials, which come from the hard-pressed English taxpayer, will also increase:

The NHS and schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland face equivalent pressures, so the Barnett consequentials of today’s decisions mean an extra £1.5 billion for the Scottish Government, £1.2 billion for the Welsh Government, and £650 million for the Northern Ireland Executive. That means more resources for the schools and hospitals in our devolved nations next year, the year after and every year thereafter.

A new energy strategy will be forthcoming from the Business Secretary.

These are Hunt’s infrastructure commitments:

… today I can announce that I am not cutting a penny from our capital budgets in the next two years, and I am maintaining them at that level in cash terms for the following three years. That means that although we are not growing our capital budget as planned, it will still increase from £63 billion four years ago to £114 billion next year and £115 billion the year after, and will remain at that level—more than double what it was under the last Labour Government.

Smart countries build on their long-term commitments rather than discarding them, so today I confirm that because of this decision, alongside Sizewell C, we will deliver the core Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 to Manchester, East West Rail, the new hospitals programme and gigabit broadband roll-out. All these and more will be funded as promised, with over £600 billion of investment over the next five years to connect our country and grow our economy.

Our national Conservative mission is to level up economic opportunity across the country. That, too, needs investment in infrastructure, so I will proceed with round 2 of the levelling-up fund, at least matching the £1.7 billion value of round 1. We will also drive growth across the UK by working with the Scottish Government on the feasibility study for the A75, supporting the advanced technology research centre in Wales and funding a trade and investment event in Northern Ireland next year.

He is bringing devolution to England in the form of mayoralties:

Our brilliant [Conservative] Mayors such as Andy Street and Ben Houchen have shown the power of civic entrepreneurship. We need more of this inspirational local leadership, so today I can announce a new devolution deal that will bring an elected Mayor to Suffolk, and deals to bring Mayors to Cornwall, Norfolk and an area in the north-east to follow shortly. We are also making progress towards trailblazer devolution deals with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the West Midlands Combined Authority, and soon over half of England will be covered by devolution deals. Taken together, that £600 billion investment in our future growth represents the largest investment in public works for 40 years, so our children and grandchildren can be confident that this Conservative Government are investing in their future.

Hunt is altering the Truss-Kwarteng investment zones to be more in line with Michael Gove’s aspirations for levelling up:

I will also change our approach to investment zones, which will now focus on leveraging our research strengths by being centred on universities in left-behind areas, to help to build clusters for our new growth industries. My right hon. Friend the Levelling Up Secretary will work with Mayors, devolved Administrations and local partners to achieve this, with the first decisions announced ahead of the spring Budget.

The Truss-Kwarteng energy support plan remains in place until the end of March 2023:

I pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), and to the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), for their leadership in this area. This winter, we will stick with their plan to spend £55 billion to help households and businesses with their energy bills—one of the largest support plans in Europe. From April, we will continue the energy price guarantee for a further 12 months at a higher level of £3,000 per year for the average household. With prices forecast to remain elevated throughout next year, this will mean an average of £500 of support for every household in the country.

There is more help for the most vulnerable:

At the same time, for the most vulnerable, we will introduce additional cost of living payments next year of £900 to households on means-tested benefits, £300 to pensioner households and £150 for individuals on disability benefit. We will also provide an additional £1 billion of funding to enable a further 12-month extension to the household support fund, helping local authorities to assist those who might otherwise fall through the cracks. For those households that use alternative fuels such as heating oil and liquefied petroleum gas to heat their homes, I am today doubling the support from £100 to £200, which will be delivered as soon as possible this winter. Before the end of this year, we will also bring forward a new targeted approach to support businesses from next April.

But I want to go further to support the people most exposed to high inflation. Around 4 million families live in the social rented sector—almost one fifth of households in England. Their rents are set at 1% above the September inflation rate, which means that on current plans they are set to see rent hikes next year of up to 11%. For many, that would just be unaffordable, so today I can announce that this Government will cap the increase in social rents at a maximum of 7% in 2023-24. Compared with current plans, that is a saving for the average tenant of £200 next year.

Labour started a commotion at this point. Hunt then announced a rise in the minimum wage:

This Government introduced—[Interruption.] I thought they cared about the most vulnerable! This Government introduced the national living wage, which has been a giant step in eliminating low pay, so today I am accepting the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission to increase it next year by 9.7%. This means that, from April 2023, the hourly rate will be £10.42, which represents an annual pay rise worth over £1,600 to a full-time worker. It is expected to benefit over 2 million of the lowest-paid workers in our country, and it keeps us on track for our target to reach two thirds of median earnings by 2024. It is the largest increase in the UK’s national living wage ever.

Benefits will increase by the rate of inflation:

today I commit to uprating such benefits by inflation, with an increase of 10.1%. That is an expensive commitment, costing £11 billion, but it means that 10 million working-age families will see a much-needed increase next year, which speaks to our priorities as a Government and our priorities as a nation. On average, a family on universal credit will benefit next year by around £600. To increase the number of households that can benefit from this decision, I will also exceptionally increase the benefit cap by inflation next year.

Finally, I have talked a lot about the British values of compassion, hard work, dignity and fairness, but there is no more British value than our commitment to protect and honour those who built the country we live in, so to support the poorest pensioners I have decided to increase pension credit by 10.1%, which is worth up to £1,470 for a couple and £960 for a single pensioner in our most vulnerable households, but the cost of living crisis is harming not just our poorest pensioners but all pensioners.

The triple-lock stays:

Because we have taken difficult decisions elsewhere today, I can also announce that we will fulfil our pledge to the country to protect the pension triple lock. In April, the state pension will increase in line with inflation, an £870 increase, which represents the biggest ever increase in the state pension. To the millions of pensioners who will benefit from this measure, I say: “Now and always, this Government are on your side.”

Hunt did not receive a jubilant reception from Conservative MPs, some of whom had concerns.

Dr Liam Fox asked about quantitative easing and interest rates:

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a balanced and skilful statement prioritising fiscal stability. He will be aware that some of us believe that the Bank of England maintained monetary conditions that were too loose for too long, but that it would also be a mistake to maintain monetary conditions that are too tight for too long. Can he therefore confirm that the anti-inflationary measures that he has taken today will mean that the pressure to raise interest rates will be minimised, and that there is a much greater chance that they will fall earlier than would otherwise have been the case?

Hunt replied:

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to focus on this issue, because every 1% increase in interest rates is about £850 more on the average mortgage, so it is hugely important to families up and down the country. The OBR has said that the measures that we have taken today will mean that inflation is lower than it would otherwise have been. That means that the Bank of England is under less pressure to increase interest rates, which for reasons that he knows are such a worry for so many families.

Sir William Cash was concerned about the ever-increasing costs of the HS2 rail project:

My right hon. Friend argued for sound money and sound foundations. Would he be good enough to explain how it is that High Speed 2 will continue beyond Birmingham at a verifiable cost of at least £40 billion, when every independent report on HS2 condemns the project and confirms that phase 2 will make rail services to all west coast destinations north of Birmingham much worse? I ask him to make a clear commitment to keep this matter under review at all costs; it is in the national interest.

Hunt said:

My hon. Friend is right that the increases in the budget for HS2 are disappointing, but a strong economy needs to have consistency of purpose, and that means saying we will make sure that we are a better connected country. The lack of those connections is one of the fundamental reasons for the differences in wealth between north and south, which we are so committed to addressing. There is a bigger issue about the way that we do infrastructure projects: it takes too long, and the budgets therefore get out of control. We are just not very good at it, and we have to sort it out.

Theresa Villiers rightly asked how soon we could move to a lower-tax economy if the forecasts are wrong. For me, this was the question of the day:

I thank the Chancellor for the announcement on schools funding, which, as he knows, is something that I raised with him as being crucial. Can he also confirm that, if current forecasts about economic recovery and inflation prove to be overly pessimistic, we will move more quickly than he has announced today towards delivering a lower-tax economy?

Hunt was non-committal:

My right hon. Friend is an immensely experienced colleague. She is right to point out that there is always inaccuracy in any forecast, and there is always variation from fiscal event to fiscal event, so we keep all those decisions under review in the round. I think it is still important to have forecasts—that is better than not to have them—but we keep all those decisions under review.

Virginia Crosbie from Ynys Môn in Wales asked how soon the new nuclear programme would begin:

This Government’s commitment to Sizewell C and large-scale nuclear is welcome, and it was noted that Labour’s shadow Chancellor failed to mention nuclear. When will the launch of Great British Nuclear be announced, and will its scope include large-scale gigawatt nuclear at sites such as Wylfa in my constituency, as well as small modular reactors?

Hunt was encouraging:

There is no more formidable advocate for big nuclear investment on Ynys Môn than my hon. Friend. Indeed, when I went on a family holiday to Ynys Môn this summer, she tried to persuade me to visit the potential site of a nuclear power station with my children. I apologise that I did not take her up on the offer, but it shows her commitment. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary will be making an announcement soon on things such as the launch of Great British Nuclear—I hope before Christmas, but if not just afterwards—because we want to crack on with our nuclear programme.

Richard Drax was concerned about the burden on the taxpayer, another excellent question:

I have huge sympathy for my right hon. Friend. We are facing severe financial challenges for the reasons he explained so well, but Members on both sides of the House are promising to spend billions and billions more pounds. I remind the House that it is the private sector, and hardworking people through their taxes, who pay for Government expenditure. Does my right hon. Friend agree that raising taxes on both risks stifling the growth and productivity that he and I both want, and that would counter the recession we are now in?

Hunt defended his budget:

My hon. Friend is right to make the case for a lightly taxed dynamic economy, and I would like to bring taxes down from their current level. We are faced with the necessity of doing something fast to restore sound money and bring inflation down from 11%, which is why we have made difficult decisions today. But yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right: there is no future for this country unless we get back on the path to being a lower taxed economy.

Mark Pawsey asked about small businesses:

My constituents in Rugby and Bulkington will not enjoy the tough decisions that the Chancellor has had to make today, but they will understand the need for sound finances after the huge expenditure that the country has made on the pandemic and supporting people with their energy costs as a consequence of the war in Ukraine. They will also want to know that businesses will continue to invest to grow and to create jobs. Will he speak about the incentives that still exist for businesses to do exactly that?

Hunt pledged his support:

I am happy to do that. My hon. Friend is quite right to raise those issues. We are doing a lot of short-term things, including help with energy bills as well as business rates. As we move to a new business rates system, we are freezing the levels at which business rates can increase and introducing a 75% discount next year for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. Fundamentally, as a Conservative Government, we know that we cannot flourish as an economy without flourishing small businesses, and we will back them to the hilt.

Greg Smith asked what Hunt was doing about reducing fuel duty:

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend when he talks about the inflationary pressures coming from the aftershocks of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. We see that at the fuel pumps and, more significantly, our haulage and logistics sector sees it with the enormous level of taxation on diesel in particular driving inflation to get food and goods on to our shelves. As he prepares for the March Budget, will he look at the inflationary impact of fuel duty on top of the high cost of diesel and see whether we can reduce it?

Hunt said he was looking at the issue:

I assure my hon. Friend that I will absolutely do that. We have a little time, and I know that fuel duty is an important issue to him and many other colleagues.

March 2023 — fuel duty hike

Hunt’s answer to Greg Smith on the fuel duty hike sounded reassuring, but GB News’s economic editor Liam Halligan uncovered a planned fuel duty hike of 23% for March 2023 from the OBR forecast. It would be the first since 2011:

Here’s Liam Halligan talking about it:

Forbes noticed it, too, bringing the news to an even wider international audience:

https://image.vuukle.com/8d46442a-2514-45e7-9794-98dfc370ce1b-94c4922a-473b-4f2c-bf6c-332bb8ccac4e

Fiscal drag

The Times had an article on the upcoming fiscal drag following Hunt’s budget:

Disposable incomes, after adjusting for inflation, will fall by 4.3 per cent in 2022-23, which would be the largest fall since records began in the 1950s. It is set to be followed by the second largest fall — in 2023-24 — of 2.8 per cent.

… Despite the aspirations of Rishi Sunak to create a low-tax economy, Britain is on course for its biggest ever tax burden as hundreds of thousands of workers are dragged into higher income tax bands by the freezing of thresholds and allowances while businesses also face a jump in levies, including employment taxes.

The tax burden is set to rise to 37.5 per cent of GDP in the financial year ending 2025, reaching the highest level since records began shortly after the Second World War.

The level of taxation as a share of the national income will rise to 36.4 per cent of GDP this year and 37.4 per cent in the financial year ending 2024, breaking the previous record.

Recovery is not likely to begin until 2025, several months after the next general election. This is accurate only if Conservatives are still in power by then:

GDP is expected to rise by 4.2 per cent this year before falling by 1.4 per cent next year, only returning to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024. However, growth is expected to pick up to 2.6 per cent the following year and 2.7 per cent in 2026, following a recovery in real incomes, consumption and investment.

The Telegraph also had an article on fiscal drag:

Nearly a quarter of a million workers will be dragged into paying the 45p rate of income tax after Jeremy Hunt slashed the threshold at which it is charged.

The salary on which the additional rate is payable will be reduced from £150,000 to £125,140 effective next April, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in the Autumn Statement, and frozen until 2028, forcing 232,000 workers into paying the top rate of tax for the first time and costing these quarter of a million taxpayers £620 on average, according to wealth manager Quilter.

The number of workers paying 45pc has more than doubled since the rate was first introduced in 2010 – rising from 236,000 to 629,000 today – as wage inflation has pushed more taxpayers into the highest income tax band.

Lowering the threshold will cost the 629,000 workers earning over £150,000 who are already impacted by the 45pc tax an additional £1,250 …

Just two months ago, then-Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng promised that the top rate would be abolished altogether. But now the Government is hoping to earn £420m in 2023-24 by catching more taxpayers in the 45pc net, and almost double that – £855m – in 2027-28.

Neela Chauhan of accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young said the move was “a major attack” on higher earners.

She added: “It’s going to bring in people into the upper rate who feel that they are far from being rich.”

Tax firm RSM said that there are also unexpected consequences of slashing the additional-rate threshold and the Chancellor had opened the door to a new 67.5pc tax rate.

Taxpayers earning over £100,000 lose their personal allowance at a rate of £1 for every £2 of income.

This means for every £100 they earn between £100,000 and £125,140, a worker takes home just £40 – because £40 is lost to income tax and another £20 to the tapering of the personal allowance – creating a 60pc tax trap.

Dismal headlines

The Guardian has a breakdown of last Friday’s front pages, which were bleak.

The Telegraph noted the austerity of George Osborne, Chancellor when the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition took over from in 2010, and the Labourite policies of his predecessor Gordon Brown. At the bottom of the page is an analysis from Lord Frost:

Lord Frost’s analysis is pro-Truss/Kwarteng

Lord Frost points out that the OBR are predicting what Liz Truss did just a few weeks ago:

This was a very curious Autumn Statement. For the last month, we have been told that Britain needed to re-establish the confidence of the markets and put in place renewed fiscal discipline, supposedly so carelessly squandered by Liz Truss. “Eye-wateringly painful decisions” were coming for all of us …

… public spending will be at its highest since the 1970s and taxation the highest since the Second World War. Both only start to fall, gently, in the late 2020s, and then only because of some pretty heroic assumptions about growth. Indeed, under Liz Truss we were told that 2.5 per cent growth was impossible – yet the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is predicting exactly that for 2025 and 2026.

How do we explain this?

To do so, I think, we have to go back to that extraordinary week in mid-October, when Truss’s government blew up on the launch pad

She was levered out of Downing Street with the argument that she had been careless about the public finances, casual about fiscal discipline and had lost market confidence. An emergency correction was needed – tax rises or spending cuts, and probably both.

Yet on taking office, our current government will have found – as the OBR has now acknowledged – that we were already into a deepening recession. Tightening fiscal policy with growth collapsing and interest rates increasing globally would clearly have been an insane policy, one at variance with what virtually every economist would suggest. But, having destroyed the Truss administration for being insufficiently fiscally disciplinarian, the Government could hardly overtly change course itself.

That is why we got what we got. Keep growing spending, raise taxes now on unpopular groups, defer deficit reduction and everything else until 2025, and meanwhile talk a lot about austerity and discipline to disguise the reality that this is likely a similar fiscal policy to what Truss’s would have been, just at higher levels of tax and spend. Then, after the election, if the Conservatives are still in power, it can all be looked at again …

… Taxes on business wreck investment and growth. Taxes on the (not very) rich destroy incentives. Britain’s hard-won reputation for being a low tax country is permanently lost. And we all have less of our own money and are less free.

Another defence of Trussonomics

The Mail reminds us that the Truss plan was to cap energy prices for two years. Hunt has reduced this to the end of March 2023:

Average energy bills will rise to £3,000 a year from April as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed he was scrapping previous Government plans.

In his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons, Mr Hunt revealed changes to the ‘Energy Price Guarantee’ would leave Britons facing higher gas and electricity payments next year.

When former prime minister Liz Truss first announced the cost of living support in September, she outlined how average energy bills would be frozen at £2,500 a year for the next two years

Delivering details of an altered plan today, Mr Hunt revealed the Energy Price Guarantee would now be set at a higher level of £3,000 a year for average households until April 2024.

Of course, those who use less energy at home might have less to pay:

The plan only caps the cost per unit that households pay, with actual bills still determined by how much is consumed.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said:

The fact that this comes on top of so many other price rises means life is going to get even tougher next spring.

More Trussonomics

The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson wrote an analysis of the budget for The Telegraph, ‘This could turn out to be the week that the Tories lost the next election’.

I noted above that some of what Hunt said points far into the future.

Fraser Nelson also observed that fact:

Suspiciously, almost all of this austerity is due to take place after April 2025, after the election. The Tory benches were very quiet during Hunt’s speech, perhaps because they were piecing all this together. It was not just an Autumn Statement being written, but the next Conservative manifesto, too – with all the bad stuff saved for after the vote. Hardly the behaviour of a party expecting to win.

As one minister put it: “This was the day we lost the election.” This is how some Tories see the Autumn Statement: a suicide note, wrapping a poison pill for a Keir Starmer government to swallow.

This is the alarming rate of borrowing today. Factor in the previous QE and the generous Sunak pandemic programmes when he was Chancellor:

Even now, the Government is borrowing £485 million a day – or £20,000 by the time you finish this sentence. It all needs to be repaid. And the interest we all have to pay for such debt is, broadly, treble what it was a year ago.

The new forecasts show a UK Government expecting to pay £484 billion in debt interest over the next five years – almost £300 billion more than was expected this time last year. This year alone it’s £120 billion, twice last year’s sum.

This extra £60 billion has had to come from somewhere. It’s enough to double the size of the military, treble the police force or rebuild every school or hospital. But instead it is dead money, servicing an old debt – and things need to be squeezed to make room for it. For years, Tories wrote cheques, for HS2 and more, barely thinking about the cost. Now the bill has landed.

Nelson doesn’t mention the number of times long-serving Conservative backbenchers warned Sunak over the past two years that the bill would come due, but I saw them in parliamentary debates being duly ignored. To Sunak, those men were mere Thatcherites, so last century. Rishi told us we could borrow with little consequence. Not so.

He created a lot of our current problems and campaigned in August that he would be the candidate to get us out of this situation.

Now he is No. 10, just as he wanted to be from the beginning:

Sunak can’t be blamed for the debt interest. But he might have been expected to have better ideas of how to get out of the mess.

Of the Autumn Statement, Nelson writes:

Liz Truss said her message was “growth, growth, growth,” but Sunak’s seems to be “brace, brace, brace”. A massive fiscal impact lies ahead, he says – and our mission is to recognise it, make our peace with it, and accept that talk about a low-tax future is futile. So his Autumn Statement did not kick-start a recovery. It was, instead, a requiem for growth.

Of the August leadership campaign, he reminds us:

During the leadership debate, Truss was asked what advice she would give to Sunak. Don’t be so fatalistic, she told him. Don’t go along with narratives of decline. She had a point. Groundless optimism ended her premiership very quickly, but groundless pessimism can also be deeply damaging.

Nelson wonders how a government can so quickly discount its people:

A million more Brits, for example, are expected to join the 1.7 million already claiming disability or health-related benefits over the next five years. They will, in turn, join the 3.5 million others on out-of-work benefits. Was it so unreasonable to hope that this number might go down, with people helped back to work? We’ve been promised a review into all this, but not much else.

Another assumption is that most of the 400,000 who have dropped out of the economy since the pandemic started, citing long-term sickness, will never work again. It’s hard to find many other countries giving up so readily on such a stunningly large chunk of the population.

Is a uniquely British malady at work here? Or is the real problem a kind of Tory fatalism, where an exhausted governing party thinks the country is now too old, too sick or simply too workshy to get back to where it was in January 2020?

Many conservative voters said at the time that Rishi’s furlough scheme was a bit too helpful — and we were paying for it.

Now we are paying even more for it.

Nelson concludes:

the risk is that voters make up their mind now – and associate Toryism with chaos, broken promises and a general counsel of despair. Labour just needs to promise to do things better. As things stand, it’s not a very high bar.

Feeling fleeced yet?

The Telegraph‘s editorial warned, ‘Hard times ahead for British taxpayers’:

Unlike the tumultuous response to Kwasi Kwarteng’s unfunded growth measures in September, the market reaction was muted, which is precisely what Mr Hunt hoped for, even if the pound fell against the dollar amid forecasts of a year-long recession …

… benefits and the old age pension will rise in April by 10.1 per cent, the inflation rate in October.

This continues a trend of recent years whereby working people are expected to pay more in tax to protect social programmes that successive governments have been reluctant to reform. Although headline tax rates have not risen, the extended freeze on allowances at a time of double-digit inflation is a serious hit to the incomes of millions who will be dragged into higher bands. Some three million earners will pay income tax for the first time.

This year will see the sharpest fall in living standards on record, while the tax burden rises to its highest level as a share of GDP in decades. More than 47 per cent of national income will be spent in the public sector. In fact, spending will actually rise in real terms. The cuts are to planned budgets.

Rishi Sunak and Mr Hunt consider this social democratic approach to be fair and compassionate, closing off attack lines from Labour as a general election approaches. But there are consequences for the long-term well-being of the country if working people and businesses feel they are being fleeced to prop up failing public services and a benefit system in need of a drastic overhaul.

Essentially, the productive part of the economy is being squeezed to prop up the unproductive. The problem Mr Sunak faces is that, by 2024, the Conservatives will have been in office for 14 years and they need to offer voters a better slogan than “Labour will be worse”. In fact, Labour would support many of the measures in the Autumn Statement, from loading more tax on the wealthy to increasing windfall taxes on the energy companies.

ministers need to prepare for the worst and could proactively address the biggest drags on the economy, above all the NHS, social care and welfare benefits. The health service continues to soak up huge sums – with another £6 billion announced yesterday – and yet produces worse outcomes. Its shortcomings are causing problems throughout the economy, with treatment backlogs contributing to acute manpower shortages which the Government intends to fill by increasing immigration.

The Spectator‘s political editor James Forsyth, a close friend of Rishi Sunak’s, explained in The Times why this recession is different to previous ones and why we need more people in the workforce. I hope his friend pays attention to this:

One bright spot amid the gloom is the unemployment rate, which is just 3.6 per cent, down from 3.8 per cent this year. This is close to historic lows. But even this glimmer is tarnished. The low unemployment number disguises how many people have left the labour force: one in five working-age Brits are economically inactive, meaning they are neither in work nor looking for it. More than five million are claiming out-of-work benefits.

The recession may last a year, perhaps two — but it will be different. Unemployment, as formally defined, won’t exceed 5 per cent even during the worst of the downturn — in the 1980s it went into double digits. Seldom have there been more vacancies in the economy. It’s an odd form of recession where almost anyone who wants a job can find one, but that’s the situation we’re in. Almost every month, the number of those not looking for work grows: it jumped by 169,000 in the three months to August. That is more than the population of Oxford.

This has consequences. The OBR thinks the cost of health and disability benefits will rise by £7.5 billion — quite a sum. A shrinking labour market is also one of the reasons why the Bank of England thinks potential growth is now a mere 0.75 per cent even in 2024-25. The Tories desperately need to get back to moving people from welfare into work — not just to reduce the welfare bill but also to boost the economy

Alongside those not in work nor looking for it, there are 970,000 people on Universal Credit who are working very limited hours in an economy where employers are offering shifts. Hunt announced that about 600,000 of them will now be required to meet a work coach to try to increase their hours. This signals a return to Tory welfare reform …

to ensure taxes don’t need to keep going up indefinitely, two things are needed. The first is a renewed emphasis on public-sector reform. The Tory mantra used to be more for less from public services. But in recent years, it has felt like the opposite is the case. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out this week, the NHS has more money and more staff than it did before Covid yet is treating fewer people on the waiting list. This needs reversing if the tax burden is not to continue climbing ever higher.

The second is the economy needs to grow. Meat needs to be put on the bones of the growth agenda that Sunak and Hunt set out this week, with further incentives for businesses to invest.

After the debacle of the mini-budget, this autumn statement was always going to be about steadying the ship. Yet satisfying the markets is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a successful government. Sunak and Hunt must now deliver on public service reform, moving people from welfare into work and getting more out of the health and education budgets.

The Telegraph had more on the parlous state of the NHS, despite more taxpayer money being dumped into it, all for nought:

An analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows the health service in England carried out 600,000 fewer procedures in the first nine months of 2022, compared with the same period in 2019.

The NHS’s budget rose from £123.7 billion in 2019-20 to £151.8  billion in 2022-23, with the extra funding tied to a target of increasing elective hospital activity by 30 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels. This will not only be missed but matters have worsened. Why is no one being held to account?

Record sums have been poured in for years, yet there is now a waiting list of more than seven million patients. Working practices remain stuck in the past, with consultants complaining that hospitals are “like the Mary Celeste” at weekends, while most GP surgeries are only open on weekdays, pushing patients to overstretched A&E services.

The NHS unions are not helping in their demands for more money.

The article concludes:

There is something fundamentally wrong with the NHS which politicians must confront before it crashes and brings the rest of the economy down with it.

Hunt puts economic hope in migrants

It seems the OBR, a quango started by the Conservative Chancellor George Osborne and staffed by Labourites, has convinced Jeremy Hunt that he should increase our already heavy migration levels to boost the economy.

That’s a left-wing idea that has never worked.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman will oppose that, but can she succeed? Only a few weeks ago, a 90-minute argument with Liz Truss and Hunt resulted in Braverman’s resignation. Her security violations were a likely smokescreen for what really happened.

The Telegraph reported:

Jeremy Hunt is relying on a surge in net migration to more than 200,000 people per year to help deliver economic growth as he oversees a sharp rise in the tax burden to its highest ever peacetime level.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted net migration – the numbers entering the UK minus those leaving – will be 224,000 next year, before gently declining to settle at 205,000 a year from 2026 onwards.

This is dramatically higher than the OBR’s March estimate, when it predicted that net migration would be between 139,000 and 129,000 in the same years, some 80,000 lower.

It is also significantly higher than the long-term “ambition” of Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, to reduce net migration to below 100,000 – similar to the target of Theresa May, one of her predecessors in the post.

The increase in migrant labour will help to buttress Britain’s economy as Mr Hunt imposes higher taxes on earnings, jobs and investment. The OBR said that an increase in migration would help add to the potential size of the economy.

However, rising costs from tax are creating “growing disincentives to work”, reduce business investment and depress wages, according to the OBR itself.

Business groups were even more damning. The Chancellor talked a lot about “hard work” and “fairness” in his Autumn Statement. But workers, entrepreneurs and businesses have been left to pick up the bill to keep Britain’s welfare state on the road.

The OBR are being deeply irresponsible in advocating city-sized populations coming from abroad each year.

Where will these people live? How is our infrastructure — medical facilities, schools, water supply — increase to meet this demand year upon year?

Anyone travelling by Tube can pick up a copy of the Evening Standard to read about how many British twenty-somethings in London cannot find a room to rent. In many cases, there are 100 of them chasing every available room. The Standard interviews them. Their stories are heart-breaking. These young people are signed up to every rental app, to no avail.

Council tax increasing

On top of all of this, The Times reported that Hunt has given the green light to councils to increase council tax:

… the chancellor announced “more council tax flexibilities”, enabling councils in England to raise council tax by 3 per cent a year (up from 2 per cent) from April 2023 and increase the adult social care precept by 2 per cent a year (up from 1 per cent) without having to hold a referendum — leaving councils free to raise the tax by up to 5 per cent next year.

Their article has charts of various council tax rates and offers this example:

If they decide to increase council tax by the full 5 per cent, council tax band D payments would rise by £115 from £2,300 to £2,415 a year in Rutland in the East Midlands — the local authority with the most expensive tax bills in England — while in Westminster in central London, the cheapest authority, they would increase by just £43 from £866 to £909 a year.

Short takes

The Telegraph has an article on winners and losers from the Autumn Statement. There are only two groups of winners: housebuyers and pensioners/benefits claimants.

The Guardian interviewed some of Hunt’s constituents in leafy South West Surrey. They are unhappy with him as MP and are equally unhappy with the Government.

Guido Fawkes’s sketchwriter summed up Hunt’s announcement as follows:

What was the job of the day? To persuade the markets that all was under control. That debt-to-GDP would fall in reasonable time, that things would get back to normal in his cool, technocratic, managerial hands.

It’s what we all need, to believe that someone knows how things work and that they know what they’re doing. That there is such a thing as “sound money”. That the great, communal hallucination of financial reality may be preserved.

In Guido’s view, the Chancellor did exactly that. (Pound crashes, housing market collapses, the global financial architecture disappears into the Pacific Trench)

The readers’ comments near the end of that post have to do with the raw deal Liz Truss got. Here’s the exchange:

I find it impossible to believe that Liz Truss did so much damage in a couple of weeks with a mini budget which was never even enacted to require today’s grotesque socialist budget. Hunt and Rishi must be following an ideological policy and using Truss as their excuse.

Yes, she’s been made a convenient scapegoat by the WEF shills, to cover all their earlier and current mistakes and wrongdoings.

She went too far too fast and, by doing so, gave the one nation Tories and SunakHunts the opportunity to bring her down. The real villains are Sunak and Bailey [Bank of England governor] with their money printing and inflation denial. We are paying for their mistakes.

She didn’t go too far too fast. That is the Conservative spin. The Socialist spin is that she crashed the economy. It was cautious and a promising start, a direction of travel being set, nothing more – except for that huge two year package on the gas bills which was pure socialism and not mentioned by anyone.

The true Conservative spin is that, as an experienced Cabinet minister, she didn’t scan the political and financial hinterlands and underestimated the faux Conservative forces ranged against her. Once she u-turned she was done for.

On another of Guido’s posts, a reader posited that this is all about reversing Brexit:

The champagne socialist billionaire Rishi Sunak and arch remainer narssisist Jeremy Hunt have nailed the final nails in the socialist party AKA as the Conservative party coffin. They will be wiped out at the next GE for a generation. They want to tank the economy and make everyone feel financial pain so they can say BREXIT didn’t work. They will then seem to come to the rescue with every excuse on the planet and join us up first to the single market and customs union. Then kicking and screaming back into the EU. Why do you think they staged this remainer coup and got rid of Truss? The Truss budget of low tax, high wages, high growth, low government spend and the scrapping of the 2300-3000 EU laws retained on the UK statue book would have taken advantage of BREXIT and boosted the economy. They could not allow that to happen. They want to ditch plans to scrap the EU laws as that will make it harder to leave. They have folded on the NI Protocol and leaving the Jurisdiction of the ECHR. Why? Because they want to rejoin. We now are having forced on us a low wage, high tax, low growth, high government spend economy that will cripple most people financially and small businesses. Who wants to invest in the UK now?

On that note, another reader posted a photo of Hunt and Sunak sharing a laugh, with this fictitious caption:

Hunt: Told you you didn’t need the support of the members.

Sunak: Yes, it was so easy to stab Truss in the back, too. Who needs democracy?

What taxpayers can do

All is not lost for taxpayers. There are ways to mitigate the effects from Hunt’s statement.

Anyone who needs to cut back on food costs, protein in particular, should start eating eggs, which are cheap and the best source of protein around. Supposedly, they’re in short supply, but I bought a dozen only yesterday.

The Telegraph has an excellent article on various egg preparations, whether sweet or savoury. It’s well worth reading.

The paper also has a helpful article about what taxpayers can do to mitigate Hunt’s raid on their money. Some will require advice from a financial planner. The most important tip is to get one’s capital gains in order and start liquidating shares or funds to put into an ISA — a process called ‘bed and ISA’ — without exceeding the CGT thresholds. This has to be started well before the end of the 2022-23 tax year in April, when the current capital gains threshold of £12,300 expires and becomes £6,000 for one year, then £3,000 the year after that.

Good luck!

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