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Spreadsheet Phil Fails To Excel

22/11/2017 16:40 GMT | Updated 22/11/2017 16:59 GMT
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Has Spreadsheet Phil offered something substantial to younger generations in today's Budget? A quick glance through the policies announced suggests that rather than taking bold steps to rebalance the interests of different generations more fairly, the Chancellor has once again ducked the key issues that are crippling young people - student debt, high housing costs and stagnating wages.

The key issue for young people is housing so the abolition of stamp duty for first-time-buyers on properties up to £300,000 may well seem like a generous offer to younger generations so that they can better compete with buy-to-let landlords. History tells us sadly that this stamp duty exemption will actually do the opposite and lead to an increase in house prices. You just have to look at how market activity increased by 20% when stamp duty was decreased in 2008/9.

Three million apprenticeships, the roll-out of T Levels, and £20 million more for Further Education colleges, is welcome news, but does little for those younger generations already in the world of work with the under-25s once again excluded from the 4.4% increase in the National Living Wage.

The elephant in the room is of course the government's refusal to deal effectively with student debt beyond the tinkering undertaken a few weeks ago with the freezing of fees at £9,250 a year and increasing the repayment threshold to £25,000. Most graduates will still face a marginal tax rate of 41% for 30 years when you combine the 9% repayment rate, 12% national insurance, and 20% basic rate income tax.

On environmental measures once again the government failed to excel. Given his pledge to clean up the air our children breathe, the Chancellor was totally underwhelming in his promotion of a switch to electric cars, announcing a few measures to increase the number of charging points. In contrast, he again froze fuel duty and boasted that the Conservatives, since 2010, had effectively handed fossil-fuel-burning motorists £46 billion pounds in fuel duty forgone. Young people get to work by bus and train, not cars. The Chancellor gave no help to buses, and only a third off train fares.

With nine references to "future generations" the government is starting to realise how badly young and unborn people have been treated. Unfortunately the promising rhetoric was not backed up with adequate concrete proposals. Instead, like all recent governments, both left- and right-leaning, the Chancellor veered away from tackling the bigger ticket items such pensions and carbon emissions.