George Osborne outlines autumn statement

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement to MPs in the House of

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement to MPs in the House of Commons, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday December 3, 2014. See PA story POLITICS Main. Photo credit should read: PA Wire - Credit: PA

George Osborne unveiled a dramatic root and branch reform of stamp duty today, promising to save homebuyers thousands of pounds at the end of a 50-minute Autumn Statement.

The Chancellor said the levy was a “tax on aspiration”, and said he would remove the ‘cliff edges’ which distorted the property market.

In a bold move, Mr Osborne said that from midnight tonight stamp duty will be cut for 98% of homebuyers – £4,500 less on the average priced home of £275,000.

Mr Osborne insisted the UK’s budget deficit had been halved since 2010 and was still forecast to fall in every year. By 2018-19 the government is due to record a surplus of £4 billion.

The OBR also anticipates above inflation wage rises for the next four years – although Mr Osborne said the 1% cap on public sector rises would be maintained.

Mr Osborne said the fiscal position was helped because the welfare bill and debt interest repayments had been reduced. But he conceded that “substantial savings” in public spending will still be required in the next parliament.

Among the other measures unveiled by the Chancellor were:

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Inheritance tax exemptions for aid workers who go to help with the Ebola crisis;

Crackdown on tax avoidance including a 25% levy on firms that shift profits overseas;

£1.2 billion revenue from bank foreign exchange trading fines to go to GP practices.

Mr Osborne said the OBR growth estimates for this year– revised upwards from 2.7% to 3% – showed the coalition’s pace of fiscal consolidation was right.

“Now there are those who say we should cut even faster, and those who say we should cut more slowly.

“But we’ve got the pace right - as clearly demonstrated by the fact that our economy is growing faster than almost any other.

“And because of careful management, we can afford to put part of that underspend money into our National Health Service to cope with the pressures it faces.”

Personal allowances would increased from £10.000 to £10,600 next year – increasing the amount of tax-free earnings people receive.

The freeze on fuel duty would also remain, even though world oil prices have fallen.

And Mr Osborne said loans of up to £10,000 would be available for graduates to do further degrees.

He said 500,000 jobs had been created over the past year, and inflation and the deficit was falling.

Mr Osborne dismissed suggestions that many of the posts created were part time, insisting 85% were full time. They are also being generated fastest in Scotland and the North of England.

George Osborne appealed for voters to let him “finish the job” of overhauling the economy today as he admitted the deficit was not falling as fast as hoped.

Delivering his last Autumn Statement before the general election, the Chancellor said forecasts showed Britain was the fastest growing advanced economy in the world and hundreds of thousands of jobs were being generated.

But he confirmed that borrowing was estimated be £91.3 billion this year - rather than the £86.4 billion the Office for Budget Responsibility previously expected.

“Now Britain faces a choice,” Mr Osborne told the Commons.

“Do we squander the economic security we have gained, go back to the disastrous decisions on spending and borrowing and welfare that got us into this mess?

“Or do we finish the job - and go on building the secure economy that works for everyone.

“I say: we stay the course. We stay on course to prosperity.”

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