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Young, Gifted And Ignored - Nothing For Young People In The Autumn Statement

24/11/2016 10:07

There was just one mention of "future generations" in Wednesday's Autumn Statement. The Chancellor announced that he was saving a large stately home from collapse for future generations. The fact that he was saving a home for the future was not lost on those of us working for a fairer deal for younger and future generations. It seems those to come will get a house - just not one that they can live in.

And there is the Autumn Statement in a nutshell - doing little for those in most need who will have the most to lose from the Brexit fallout: increasing national debt, higher inflation, lower wages and declining living standards.

That 16-18 year-old apprentices are still on just £3.40/hour defies believe. An increase in the personal allowance in coming years won't affect these young people as they simply don't earn enough to worry about paying tax. Nor will benefit changes affect them as the State safety net has been withdrawn from the under-21s.

For those who do manage to go on to higher education the news is also gloomy. Student fees are linked to RPI inflation. So, with inflation set to rise students will face a steep increase not only on the fees they pay, but also the loans they take out. Fees will increase by RPI, loans will increase by RPI+3%, and the interest on repayments will also rise by RPI+3% - a triple whammy against the young. Of course those with a vested interest in perpetuating the debt-generation machine that is now higher education will bang on about a lifetime graduate premium that no longer exists, record levels of employment, or the fact that the young may never have to pay their loans back. Instead they will face an extra 9% tax on earnings over £21,000 taking their effective tax rate to 41% after National Insurance deductions and 20% Income Tax.

Twenty-somethings are doing a little better with the Chancellor's announcement that he will increase the National Living Wage for the over-25s to £7.50/hour as well as consult on banning lettings' fees. He also announced a further £billion or so in order to build 40,000 new homes. But, what young people really need are an extra 300,000 homes built each year, for the next five years - 40,000 extra homes will help, little.

But, the Chancellor could have done so much more: he could have put a further squeeze on buy-to-let investment and "landlording", in order to disincentive those using housing as a form of investment; he could have reduced stamp duty for downsizers to stop it acting as a barrier to moving on; he could have incentivized downsizing-in-situ and encourage people to split their homes so they can stay in their local communities. He could have done many things to re-balance the interests of different generations more equitably.

Instead, like all recent governments, both left- and right-leaning, this budget has prioritised the wealthy old over the poorer young. The higher-rate tax threshold will be increased to £50k, the Triple Lock stays until at least 2020, pensioner incomes will continue to overtake those of the working population, gas-guzzling is prioritised over low-carbon sustainable transport, roads over rail, and nuclear over renewables.

Let's hope that parents wake up to the poor deck of cards their kids will be left with, and use their votes in the next election to call for a fairer deal for younger and future generations.

Angus Hanton is co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation

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