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Joke and Mirrors

It took the Leader of the Opposition – not famous for being a free marketeer – to point out there was nothing in the Chancellor’s much-awaited Budget for those ‘struggling to get on the housing ladder’.

Jeremy Corbyn was not shy of a few Churchillian phrases himself. Those at a time of their lives where they could reasonably be expected to be living debt-free are still having to accommodate (read ‘put up with’) adult children at home, while they frantically save to raise a deposit.

A crisis of supply and affordability, he said, in our national housing crisis.

Yet in Phillip Hammond’s first and last Spring Budget there was a £435m hand-out for High Street businesses struggling with business rate rises and, which will make the local pub happy, help in terms of their business taxes.

The raising of Class 4 National Insurance contributions and the slashing of tax-free dividend allowance from £5,000 to £2,000 for the self-employed will damage some sophisticated tax planning but appears at first sight to have a modest effect on the average self-employed worker.

And there was the expected, for that read widely leaked, £2bn lifeline for adult social care.

His speech contained many uses of the words ‘fairness’ and ‘balance’ and quotes like “those with the broadest shoulders should carry the heaviest burden”. Yet, with a really tough housing market, a widening gap between wages and affordable housing for the younger generation and savers more than squeezed by years of low interest rates, there was not a squeak.

Yet the Chancellor could so easily have waved a tax wand and helped loosen up the housing market with a change, even temporary, to Stamp Duty.

The Family Building Society has campaigned for a new look at this tax which for those whose home is worth more than £925,000 – which let’s face it is a big chunk of Middle England – are finding themselves effectively financially stuck in their house.

To do so would almost instantly help the fluidity of the market, ease up a traditional channel for allowing the younger generation to get on the housing ladder, and bring about some wider economic benefits.

Shame because some of the other jokes were quite funny.
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