What does the Autumn Statement mean for the UK economy?
The two main giveaways were a 2-pence cut to National Insurance, and the making permanent of previous temporary measures enabling businesses to offset investment expenditure against pre-tax profits.
Both these measures ‘cost’ roughly £10 billion in terms of foregone revenue. But of course, the Chancellor would argue that they may well end up earning greater sums over time, should they succeed in stimulating growth.
Capital Economics estimate Number 11’s net generosity at £14.3 billion, when you consider what the Chancellor took away with his other hand. This is still a sizable figure – where does it come from, you might wonder?
The answer is the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR)’s revised forecasts. These prescribed prophecies have great constraining power on fiscal policy, and the future sooth was said to be one of slightly higher inflation than previously thought.
Hence, in nominal terms, the Chancellor could spend more money while still allowing for debt to fall as a ratio to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
And speaking of that denominator – the OBR foresaw slowing growth in the coming years, with a real increase of 0.7% in 2024, down from 1.8% before.
What does the Autumn Statement mean for my personal finances?
Though some had speculated there would be eye-catching changes made to inheritance tax, or even that it would be abolished as pre-election appetiser, in the end there were no fireworks. The Chancellor perhaps opted to keep things agreeably dull for the benefit of an increasingly vigilant bond market.
Nonetheless, the changes made to pensions – allowing for consolidation – might well make life easier for the serially employed. Likewise, the triply-locked state pension, up by 8.5% or an additional £900 per year, will make a difference for some.
And there were minor changes to ISA rules: savers will now be able to open accounts with multiple providers within a single tax year, for instance.
Overall, however, there was little to provoke a re-drafting of anyone’s financial plans.
What does the Autumn Statement mean for my investments?
Gilt yields rose slightly as the Chancellor spoke. This reflected a marginally higher outlook for interest rates, given the OBR’s figures for growth and inflation. Or, to be more precise, an expectation that interest rates would be held at this level for a little longer than had previously been envisioned.
As for currency movements, the pound lost a cent against the dollar, increasing the value of US assets. And remember, it is those US assets which dominate global equities – the UK stock market is but a fraction of the world’s corporate enterprise.
The Autumn Statement therefore remains not especially salient to investors, whatever its import for us as citizens.
If anything, the Chancellor’s inability to meaningfully splurge in the run-up to an election year tells us more than any of the detail. For the fiscal room to manoeuvre is so tight, still so constricted by the OBR’s dour prognosis, that – barring an astonishing growth spurt – we can all but rule out a radical loosening of the belt by a government of any hue in the next few years.
As such, this Autumn Statement perhaps augurs nothing more than a political sobering, after the extraordinary policies of the pandemic. In the UK and around the world, governments are going to have to go ‘cold turkey’.
Tax laws are subject to change and taxation will vary depending on individual circumstances. Investments can go up and down in value and you may not get back the full amount originally invested.