Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said “the era of austerity is finally coming to an end” as he set out the Budget this afternoon.
The Office for Budgetary Responsibilty forecasts economic growth of 1.6% in 2019, 1.4% in 2020 and 2021, 1.5% in 2022 and 1.6% in 2023, he said.
Hammond said there will be an average 1.2% annual growth in public spending for five years, and if the Brexit deal comes good – he’s confident there’ll be one – the ‘dividend’ from it will be used for more growth.
However he’s committing an extra £500m to help government departments prepare in case of a no-deal Brexit, and he said his spring 2019 statement could become a full budget if the need arises.
From April the National Living Wage will rise by 4.9% to £8.21 per hour.
In recognition that high streets are under pressure from online shopping, he announced a £675m co-funding package, the Future High Streets Fund, to help them adapt, by supporting local councils in reinvigorating and redeveloping their high streets.
"The changes that the high street faces are irreversible," said Hammond.
Ahead of the 2021 business rates revaluations, for the next two years small retailers with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will have their rates bill cut by a third.
Britain’s business bank will get an extra £200m funding to replace EU funding.
Tweaks to the Apprenticeship Levy will mean small firms taking on an apprentice will see their co-investment contribution halved from 10% to 5%.
Tax relief for business investment will increase, with the Annual Investment Allowance rising from £200,000 to £1m for two years.
As regular pay growth is at 3.1% currently, and inflation is forecast to be 2% in 2019, he said the OBR forecasts sustained wage growth for the next five years.
He will bring forward by a year pledged threshold changes to the income tax personal allowance, making it £12,500 from April 2019, and the higher rate threshold will rise to £50,000.
He is making an extra £420m available to local highways authorities for road and bridge repairs in the current financial year.
The fuel duty remains frozen for the 9th consecutive year.
The 100% first year allowance for expenditure by businesses on electric charging points has been extended to 2023 for corporation tax and income tax.