Kate Andrews

The truth about Hunt’s ‘tax cutting’ Autumn Statement

Jeremy Hunt’s March Budget was an exercise in Big State Toryism. It lacked meaningful tax cuts, was full of new spending promises, and was estimated by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to take the ratio of public spending to GDP to ‘43.4 per cent, its highest sustained level since the 1970s’. But today’s Autumn Statement, the Chancellor told the Commons today, was going to be different. Framing the fiscal update as an ‘Autumn Statement for Growth’, Hunt began his announcement by insisting that  ‘our choice is not big government, high spending and high tax because we know that leads to less growth, not more. Instead we reduce debt, cut taxes and

Why we should all welcome Hunt’s tax break for businesses

Rishi Sunak has made ‘long-term decisions’ the leitmotif of his government. Today’s Autumn Statement announcement on permanent full expensing – which will allow businesses to write off capital investment costs against corporation tax immediately and in full – shows his Chancellor is singing from the same hymn sheet. While it might sound dry, this tax reform is a vital step towards fixing one of the key structural weaknesses in the British economy: lacklustre business investment. Hunt’s announcement today will help boost productivity, economic growth and wages. In due course, full expensing should make us all – businesses, workers and consumers – better off. The current version of full expensing, introduced

Martin Vander Weyer

Rishi Sunak can’t take the credit for falling inflation

Even the best-run companies have occasional leadership crises. But if you asked ChatGPT to come up with a blockbuster boardroom-bloodbath movie scenario, I doubt it would propose anything as extreme as this week’s events in its own San Francisco-based parent company, OpenAI. Chief executive and co-founder Sam Altman was fired last week for failing to be ‘consistently candid’ with OpenAI’s board, though no one was prepared to say what he had not been candid about. By Monday he had a new job leading AI research at Microsoft, OpenAI’s 49 per cent shareholder. One inside source claimed 743 of OpenAI’s 770 staff had signed a letter supporting him and many of

Matthew Lynn

Don’t be deceived by Jeremy Hunt’s tax ‘giveaways’

When Jeremy Hunt takes to his feet in the Commons this afternoon to deliver his Autumn Statement, he’ll be trying to woo voters with some tax ‘giveaways’: VAT thresholds might be raised to help small businesses and the basic rate of National Insurance could be reduced for the rest of us. But hold on. Before the Chancellor gives anything back, both he and the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak need to do something far more important: they should apologise for all the tax rises the Tories have imposed. We don’t know the final figure yet, but it turns out that the Chancellor has around £13 billion to £15 billion of ‘headroom’,

Isabel Hardman

Will the Tories’ ‘carrot and stick’ benefits plan work?

Rishi Sunak wants to frame a benefits crackdown in tomorrow’s Autumn Statement in compassionate terms, with ministers saying people with mobility problems and mental illnesses can no longer be ‘written off’ thanks to advances in technology making it easier to work from home. Instead, they will be expected to look for work or face benefits sanctions. The ‘carrot and stick’ approach being proposed will include a promise to claimants that their right to benefits won’t be reassessed if they look for work, as well as better support in the package of reforms being developed by work and pensions secretary Mel Stride. In lots of ways, this is compassionate: being out

Kate Andrews

Can Jeremy Hunt cut taxes in good conscience?

When the government announces a range of tax cuts tomorrow, it has pledged to do so in a ‘sustainable’ way. What counts as sustainable, however, is going to be hotly contested – especially in light of this morning’s update from the Office for National Statistics, which saw the UK borrow more than forecast or expected last month. Public sector net borrowing came in at £14.9 billion in October – more than a billion pounds higher than forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility and £4.4 billion more than was borrowed during the same month last year. There are two ways to look at the data. The first is to note that while

Kate Andrews

Sunak makes more pledges – but what happened to his last five?

In his speech in north London his morning, the Prime Minister confirmed that tax cuts are coming this Wednesday, as is another attempt by the government to get Britain’s 5.5 million missing workers back into employment. But Rishi Sunak didn’t stop there. Having achieved one of his five pledges for the year last week — the inflation rate halved in the year to October, slowing to 4.6 per cent — the Prime Minister decided this morning to offer up five more. Now in addition to the ‘five promises’ made in January — halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing public debt, cutting NHS waiting lists and ‘stopping the boats’ (a pledge

Kate Andrews

The UK labour market is beginning to cool

Slowly but surely, the labour market in the UK appears to be cooling down. Data from the Office for National Statistics this morning shows the number of job vacancies across the economy fell by another 58,000 between July to September, taking the total figure to an estimated 957,000. This is still far above pre-pandemic levels, but the number has been dropping constantly, and is down again for a sixteenth consecutive period. Meanwhile, both the UK’s unemployment figure and inactivity figure have remained ‘largely unchanged on the quarter’: sitting at 4.2 and 20.9 per cent, respectively. This bodes well for an economy that is trying to dodge the dreaded label of ‘stagflation’. The UK

Snooping on benefit claimants’ bank accounts won’t cut fraud

Another day, another wheeze from a desperate government as it tries to move the polls. Benefit claimants could soon have their bank accounts checked each month to ensure they are not lying about their savings. The law change, designed to crack down on benefits fraud, appears to be the government’s answer to the fact that welfare payments have exploded in recent years. It will reportedly be unveiled in the Autumn Statement, with estimates suggesting it could save the taxpayer £100 million a year. But will it make a difference? The Department for Work and Pensions’ total proposed expenditure for 2023/24 is set to reach £279 billion (almost half of which is pensioner benefits).

James Kirkup

Are we diluting the meaning of ‘mental health’?

What does ‘mental health’ mean? Is the answer to that question undergoing a generational change, as younger people become more aware of – and likely to talk about – their mental state and to discuss it in terms of ‘mental health’? And will that cultural change have economic effects? These are some of the questions I’ve explored in a Radio 4 Analysis show that’s broadcast on Monday night.  There might be a generation of workers who are inclined to take a day off work because they’re feeling a bit worried about a big meeting and so on It includes the voices of several fascinating people, but in particular I’d draw

Ross Clark

What’s stopping a housing crash?

Should we really believe that house prices rose by 0.9 per cent in September, as claimed by the latest release from the Nationwide House Price Index? The unexpected rise moderates the annual fall in house prices from 5.3 per cent in August to 3.3 per cent in September. There is a health warning on the Nationwide’s figures – and one which also applies to the monthly Halifax figures. Both these indices are derived from data on mortgage approvals for their own customers. When the market slows and there are fewer sales, it means there is less data on which to base the monthly figures, which inevitably makes them less reliable.

Ross Clark

Let’s do away with EPC ratings

The Autumn Statement could propose offering discounts in stamp duty for homebuyers who take improvement to raise the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of their home during their first two years of ownership. Could this be the beginning of a new divergence between the Conservatives and Labour, where the Tories provide incentives and Labour pursue punitive measures?  More carrot and less stick over green policies seems a good thing Previous government policy was to threaten the owners of homes with low EPC ratings. Landlords were to be banned for letting properties with a rating lower than ‘C’, and in the longer term it would become impossible to buy, sell or take

Michael Simmons

Dodgy data risks breaking Universal Credit

As many as one in 20 Universal Credit payments to working Brits are wrong. Claimants are at risk of destitution when they’re underpaid and accused of fraud when they’re overpaid, as the Department for Work and Pensions has been using a flawed data stream provided by HMRC to calculate Universal Credit payments. This week The Spectator revealed how HMRC’s PAYE earnings data is error strewn and fundamentally unreliable. Now it has emerged this system, used to calculate Universal Credit, risks criminalising benefit recipients and automated computer systems make it impossible for claimants to put the record straight. Insiders warn of a scandal waiting to happen – one that officials seem unaware of. The social

Kate Andrews

Unemployment is up – but can we trust the ONS’s numbers?

The UK’s unemployment rate rose to 4.2 per cent in the three months leading up to August this year, according to new experimental data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is a 0.2 per cent increase compared with the previous quarter (March to May 2023), but not a big change compared to previous data sets. The new numbers tell a familiar story: that the labour market is cooling slightly yet employers remain desperate for workers. For the last five decades, the ONS has relied on its Labour Force Survey – which covers ‘tens of thousands of households across the UK’ – for its employment data. But in a blog explaining changes to

The Renters’ Reform Bill won’t solve the housing crisis

The Renters’ Reform Bill aims to improve tenant security in the private rental sector by scrapping no-fault evictions, but it’s won’t solve Britain’s housing crisis. The Bill, which returns to Parliament this week for a second reading, was originally dreamt up in the dying days of Theresa May’s government. It could still just about make it in time for the next general election, as the government’s main electoral offer to ‘generation rent’. Yet the reality is that it fails to tackle the main cause of our housing woes: a lack of supply. The Bill’s main component is a ban on so-called ‘Section 21‘ or ‘No-Fault Evictions’. At the moment, the most common arrangement in

Martin Vander Weyer

The attack on Israel must lead to an uptick in inflation

A 10 per cent increase in oil prices translates to a 0.15 per cent loss of global GDP and a rise of 0.4 per cent in global inflation, says Gita Gopinath, deputy managing director of the IMF. Before Hamas launched its assault on Israel on 7 October, the Brent Crude barrel price had already moved 20 per cent above its summer level of $75 and pundits were predicting $100, based on prospects of tighter supply from Saudi Arabia and Russia. Natural gas prices have also risen sharply with winter approaching – and no one knows how escalation of the latest Middle East conflict might affect other energy flows and supply chains.

Ross Clark

How has Britain avoided a recession?

For the past 18 months, the UK economy has been stuck in the purgatory of an eternally predicted but non-arriving recession. The Office of Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), Bank of England, and the IMF have been among those to have predicted recessions that have not – yet – happened. But now, for what it is worth (which, to judge by the history of economic forecasting, is not much), one often-pessimistic body has stuck its neck out and said that Britain will avoid a recession. The EY Item Club has upgraded its forecast for economic growth across 2023 from 0.4 per cent to 0.6 per cent. Next year, it says that growth

Where did all the boomer bankers go?

There aren’t many Alex types in banking anymore. The popular middle-aged cartoon banker, greyer and greyer since the 1980s, is regularly depicted in the Daily Telegraph gazing sagely over the heads of panicked young traders, safe in the knowledge he’s seen it all before. Older traders like him are few and far between now. Instead, Britain’s banks and investment firms have been left largely in the hands of the youngsters, a generation too used to working in an era of free money. It’s a troubling thought. Since the 2008 financial crisis, expensive and experienced senior bankers have been cast out, replaced by younger, cheaper rivals. Credit Suisse was forced into a desperate rehiring scramble in

Does the Native American case for reparations add up?

The University of Minnesota is at the centre of a battle for Native American reparations. The university sits on tens of thousands of acres of land that once belonged to indigenous tribes. That land was sold in the 1800s for a fraction of what it’s worth today – and some think the university, which has an endowment of around $3.2 billion (£2.6 billion), should fork out to the descendants of those who once lived there. Minnesota is not alone. Cornell University in New York is facing demands to cough up. The University of Wisconsin at Madison also benefitted from land taken from 250 tribes following the signing of the Morrill