Autumn Statement 2014: what we want

Ruth Jackson
My hopes for the Autumn Statement
My hopes for the Autumn Statement

Tomorrow, Chancellor George Osborne will stand up in parliament and outline some of what is going to change in next year's Budget.

As usual these days a few strategic leaks and some educated guesses mean that much of the Autumn Statement is already being predicted.

But, with an election coming up next year – and one that is anyone's to win at the moment – I'm hoping that Osborne will come out with some genuinely original financial moves next week.

Combine income tax and national insurance

The first thing I would love to see is the radical tax change that Osborne considered introducing when the Conservatives first got into power – combining income tax and national insurance.

At present we have one of the most complex tax systems in the world. Combining these two taxes would make no difference to how much tax we pay, but it could cut costs in the tax office and for employers, simplify the tax system and make paying taxes simpler for the self-employed.

So, the government would have more money in the pot due to the savings, but we wouldn't have to pay any more tax. Sounds like a great idea. It has been discussed off and on since the 1980s but successive governments have shied away from implementing it as they worry it is an election loser.

This is because most people think of their tax on earnings in terms of income tax. So they believe they hand over 20% or 40% of what they earn to the tax man. Of course we actually pay far more than that, factor in national insurance contributions and suddenly people see that they hand over at least a third of their taxable income.

A combined earnings tax would also stop the government from being able to quietly increase their take by putting up national insurance – the last two times that has occurred it has barely registered with most of the population.

It wouldn't be a simple thing to do – decisions would have to be made about how to make sure pensioners didn't end up paying NI in retirement, and how savings would be taxed – but anything that cuts bureaucracy and makes taxes simpler would be a good thing.

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Tackle the housing crisis

House prices are booming but it is getting harder and harder for most people to buy a house. Since the credit crunch in 2008 the mortgage market has become virtually impenetrable for ordinary earners as they have to stump up enormous deposits and navigate the ludicrous application process.

Rather than focus on keeping the Conservative party's core demographic – the wealthy, older generation – happy I'd like to see Osborne make some announcements that would please those struggling on the bottom rungs of the housing ladder.

One way to do this would be to increase the stamp duty thresholds to reflect how house prices have rocketed over the past decade. That would encourage movement in the market with second-steppers being more likely to be able to afford to move out of their starter homes creating supply for first time buyers.

I would also like to see announcements that would encourage house building across the country and something done to tackle empty, abandoned properties and get them back in use again.

Also, to address the increasing problem of affordable housing in London I would love to see Osborne bring in additional taxes on foreign owners. I am tired of seeing blocks of flats in central London stand empty as foreign investors use them like safety deposit boxes for their sterling currency.

Equal pay and parental leave

If I had any sway over Osborne's budget decisions I would encourage him to address equal pay. The UK fell out of the top 20 most gender-equal countries in the world this year, according to the World Economic Forum. Average pay for women fell by £2,700 to £15,400 last year, but the average salary for men stayed the same at £24,800.

It is a disgrace that in the 21st century, four decades after the Equal Pay Act was introduced there is still such a huge gap between what you earn depending on your sex.

Action to make companies be more transparent about pay would help, but we also need to helping working parents so it is possible for mothers to go back to work without all their wages being swallowed by childcare costs.

Stop encouraging debt

Finally, I would be thrilled to hear an announcement in next week's Autumn Statement that the government was going to tackle the nation's thirst for debt. As a nation our household debt has more than quadrupled since 1990, according to financial research firm Verum. This is partly down to soaring house prices saddling people with bigger mortgages but we also owe a lot more on credit cards, personal loans and payday loans these days.

Debt is no longer a dirty word and a whole industry now exists that is determined to get us all spending beyond our means and paying extortionate interest rates. I would like to see a combination of improved financial education, legislation to make interest rates on debts clearer, and a crackdown on unethical loan companies that target their products at those least able to repay.

So, that's everything I would love to see in the budget. Sadly, I think I'll probably have to settle for a lot less.

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