Autumn Statement 2013: The five biggest mini Budget surprises

Updated: 
Graph showing economic growth There were some pretty big surprises in the Autumn Statement made by Chancellor George Osborne today - not least the state of the economy, which appears to be growing much faster than expected.

Here's our rundown of the top five Autumn Statement surprises.


1. Recovery well on the way
Osborne started his speech on a surprisingly upbeat note, with the news that the latest official figures show that the economy is on track to grow by 1.4 percent this year.

That's more than double the 0.6% growth rate forecast when he made his Budget statement in March. Osborne also predicted that economic growth in 2014 would now hit 2.4%, up from a previous estimate of 1.8%, and that Britain would be back in the black by 2018/19.

2. Pension age hiked
Journalists might have been given a heads up about the government's plans to increase the age at which workers can claim the State pension more quickly than predicted, but for many Britons under the age of 40 news that they will have to work another five years is likely to come as a rather nasty shock.

The retirement age will now rise to 68 by the mid-2030s and 69 by the mid-2040s, with anyone born after 1990 will probably have to work until they hit at least 70 years of age.

Osborne described the decision to speed up the increases as "difficult" but necessary due to rising life expectancy rates.

3. Rail fares capped
While plans to cancel the fuel tax hike due in 2014 were widely leaked to the press prior to the Autumn Statement, the decision to only increase train fares in line with inflation - rather than by 1% above inflation from January as was planned - was a better kept secret.

According to the Financial Times, it was "a late decision cleared by the Treasury at a final meeting of senior coalition figures at the end of last week".

However, transport pressure groups have criticised the move for not going far enough. Even for long-distance commuters, the saving will amount to less than £1 per week," said Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport.

4. No ISA cap introduced
Over the last few weeks and months, there have been rumours about the Treasury considering capping the total amount we are allowed to save in tax-free ISAs, at say £100,000.

This would have come as a big blow for savers, many of whom use the tax-efficient accounts to make the most of their money in this low interest rate environment.

So it will come as welcome news to ISA savers that Osborne had nothing to say about this in his Autumn Statement.

Perhaps he listened to the British Banker's Association, which argued that a cap would "raise doubts on the stability of the regime going forward and discourage saving, as there would be a perception that the cap would be reduced over time".

5. No more tax discs
Those in the know may have been expecting Osborne to announce plans to scrap tax discs after more than 90 years, but for many motorists this part of the Autumn Statement will nevertheless come as a surprise.

The new, electronic car tax system will allow drivers to pay for their vehicle excise duty (VED) by monthly direct debit, which could help to spread the burden for hard-pressed drivers, despite costing an extra 5% overall. The changes will be included in next year's Finance Bill and should come into effect in October 2014.