Last week, the Chancellor announced the Autumn Statement.
These are difficult economic times. The impact of the pandemic has been compounded by Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine causing energy prices to rise to historic levels. These challenges are being felt globally; in Germany (10%), the Netherlands (14%) and Italy (13%) inflation has hit new highs.
The Chancellor set out his three priorities for the Autumn Statement; stability, growth and public services. The Government is laser focussed on economic stability: tackling inflation whilst supporting the economy on a path to sustainable growth.
Despite the economic backdrop we are determined that focused investment in our public services should continue: the Autumn Statement set out a record package of additional support for our NHS and social care system. Helping the NHS to fulfil its key priorities and the social care system to provide more care packages and in doing so help hospitals reduce the post-Covid backlog. An extra £2.3 billion will also be invested in our schools.
The rising cost of living is a real worry for households, particularly for the most vulnerable. The Autumn Statement set out further support including the continuation of the Energy Price Guarantee from April for a further 12 months. This means that the average household should pay no more than £3000 per year in the second period. Additional cost of living payments for the most vulnerable next year, include £900 for households on means tested benefits, £300 to pensioner households and £150 for individuals on disability benefit. The Household Support Fund will also receive a further £1 billion of funding.
The National Living Wage will increase and benefits will rise with inflation. Pensioners are also being supported with an increase to pension credit by 10.1%, the state pension rising with inflation (which represents the biggest ever cash increase to the state pension) and the protection of the triple lock.
These are, globally, difficult times, reflected in targeted increases in tax bands and a huge focus on public sector efficiency. However, the Chancellor’s Statement faces up to that global economic reality and recognises the need to tackle inflation and to support growth while maintaining critical investment in our public services.