George Osborne always gets plenty of jeers when he claims 'we're all in it together', and he got a fair few of them again when he dusted off the phrase during his Budget Speech. It was particularly apt when you consider that so much of this Budget is aimed at helping people who are already doing pretty well for themselves - while there was precious little for those struggling on low incomes.
Osborne announced a bumper Budget for savers, which is great news for those with the necessary surplus income. The personal savings allowance will mean that the first £1,000 you get in interest will be tax free (unless you are a higher rate taxpayer in which case your allowance is capped at £500). It means that anyone with up to £31,000 in savings is going to benefit from the announcement.
Likewise, the Help to Buy ISA will reward those who can afford to save for a deposit. If you can put aside £12,000 you'll get £3,000 from the government. If you can't afford to save anything: you won't get anything from Osborne's announcement.
This ISA will also be likely to support another period of growth in the house market - which will be buoyed by the sentiment as much as the practical difference it makes to savers. If you are already on the housing ladder, this will yet again increase the value of your assets: if you are struggling by in a rental property, this is likely to push the aspiration of home ownership even further beyond your reach.
There's also good news for those who have saved up plenty of money in a personal pension in the past. Those who were forced to buy an annuity that they feel is poor value will be able to sell it for a cash lump sum. There will be tax consequences, and doubtless there will be fees to pay, but if you have a comfortable income, and you want to free up some cash, then this is a great bonus. Kevin Caley, CEO of ThinCats points out that: "Prudent savers have had their choices severely restricted for too long, but now they have to the chance to seek real growth and sustainability by shopping around."
However, for those surviving without a private or workplace pension, there's no additional help.
There was a bit of good news for higher earners too, who learned that the threshold at which they pay the higher rate of income tax will go up faster than inflation in 2017/18 - to £43,300. It's another nice advantage for those on higher than average incomes.
Those on smaller budgets and lower incomes weren't entirely overlooked. There will be further increases in the personal tax allowance. This goes up to £10,600 in April, and Osborne has announced it will go up to £10,800 a year later, and £11,000 a year after that. It means that 4 million of those on low incomes will be taken out of tax altogether.
There was also the announcement that from this autumn the minimum wage will rise to £6.70, and by the end of the decade it will be £8. However, when you compare that to the current living wage outside London of £7.85 and within London of £9.15, you can understand why campaigners aren't overjoyed at the rises.
If those on lower incomes are looking for more joy elsewhere in the Budget, there's little to be had. They face massive cuts in council services. The Local Government Association points out that: "Between the chancellor's first Budget in 2010 and the end of the next financial year, the money government gives to councils to provide local services will have fallen by 40%." Those who rely most on services have suffered the most from their cuts - including parents with young children, the elderly and disabled people.
The continuing squeeze on government departments is also set to continue without pause, as they will have to find a further £12 billion of savings. It's optimistic to suggest that this can be done without impacting services that prove a lifeline for the most vulnerable in society.
To add to the stresses on their budgets, those who need help from the state also have the spectre of £12 billion of welfare cuts hanging over them - which Osborne needs to make in order to hit his targets. We do not know yet how he is hoping to achieve this, but it'll have to be something reasonably drastic. It's notable, therefore, that he chose not to use any of his significant cash windfall to announce a reduction in welfare cuts.
But what do you think? Should we have expected any different? Let us know in the comments.
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