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The Chancellor has just delivered his Spring Statement for 2019 and despite lasting just under half an hour there were certainly a few surprises in store.
Despite the backdrop of the on-going Brexit negotiations, The Chancellor reported that the UK economy continues to grow. In fact, there have been nine consecutive years of growth and there is more to come, with the OBR forecasting further growth for the next five years.
Borrowing has reduced by four fifths since 2009-10 and public finances have continued to improve since the Autumn.
Wages have increased and unemployment is at an historic low. There is an estimated 3.5 million more people in work since 2010 and the unemployment rate is the lowest since 1975. There are also a million fewer workless households, with every single region and nation of the UK having higher employment and lower unemployment.
The government has appointed Professor Arindajit Dube to undertake a review of the latest international evidence on minimum wages, to inform future National Living Wage policy after 2020.
The National Minimum Wage will rise to £8.21 from April 2019.
Those paying the Apprenticeship Levy will be able to share more funds across their supply chains, with the maximum amount rising from 10% to 25%. Employers will also see the co-investment rate they pay cut by half to 5%.
The Department for Education will also be looking into a national scheme which aims to provide free sanitary products to girls in secondary schools. [
There was a significant focus on technology and how it can be used to keep the UK business booming – especially post-Brexit. The Government has welcomed an independent review of competition in the digital economy and has pledged to level the playing field between tech giants and smaller companies. The Government is also investing several millions in state of the art laser technologies, energy research and a new supercomputer that promises to deliver pioneering discoveries in medicine.
The Government is continuing its commitment to building more homes as a way of tackling the housing crisis. The Chancellor has pledged £717 million from the £5.5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock 37,000 houses at sites in particularly densely populated areas such as London and Oxford. There will also be £3 billion of borrowing available to Housing Associations to support the delivery of about 30,000 affordable homes.