Chancellor Philip Hammond said he’d take a “balanced approach” to his second Budget of 2017.
Once again the speech was light on headline-grabbing finance changes and there were no ‘giveaways’ or major surprises.
Instead, the chancellor focussed on measures to prepare the economy for post-Brexit life.
Raising productivity is key to boosting economic growth and wages, but growth has “remained stubbornly flat” and continues to be an issue.
In light of this, the Office for Budget Responsibility revised down its forecasts for growth.
It expects GDP to grow by 1.5% in 2017 (down from 2% predicted at the Spring Budget in March) and 1.4% in 2018 (down from 1.6%).
To help address the problem, the National Productivity Investment Fund, which supports innovation and infrastructure, will be extended by a year and expanded to more than £31bn.
The chancellor also announced a range of investments, including:
- £3bn over 2 years to prepare for Brexit
- £30m to develop digital skills distance learning courses
- funding to support building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.
Significant announcements for businesses include the VAT thresholds remaining unchanged for 2 years, while business rates will increase using the CPI measure of inflation from April 2018.
For individuals, stamp duty has been abolished for most first-time buyers while increases to the personal allowance and the national living and minimum wage will be welcomed by many.