CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond announced stamp duty for most first-time buyers will be abolished in his Budget.

The cut comes into force immediately and applies on the first £300,000 of a purchase in high-price areas, meaning 95 per cent of first-time buyers will see at least a cut in the amount of stamp duty, with 80 per cent paying none at all.

The Chancellor announced the measure as he put the UK's housing crisis at the centre of his Budget.

He also set out plans to build 300,000 extra new homes a year by the mid 2020s, and announced at least £44 billion of capital funding, loans and guarantees to support the housing market.

The Chancellor also:

• Set aside £3 billion to prepare for Brexit.

• Announced an emergency cash injection for the NHS, with £350 million to cope this winter.

• Announced the National Living Wage will rise 4.4 per cent from April to £7.83 - a £600 pay rise for full-time workers.

• Announced, the income tax personal allowance will rise to £11,850 and the higher rate threshold to £46,350.

• Set out plans to hike road tax for diesel cars.

•Announced most duties would be frozen.

But in a sign of the economic difficulties facing the UK, Mr Hammond said the Office for Budget Responsibility had downgraded growth forecasts across the next five years.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the Budget, saying it was a "record of failure with a forecast of more to come".

There was also criticism for no mention of social care, the issue highlighted during the Tory's election campaign.

Worcester MP Robin Walker said: "The freeze on stamp duty is welcome news for first-time buyers in Worcester.

"I also welcome the good news in the investment in the NHS, both capital and revenue.

"That is something I have campaigned locally on."


THERE was a mixed reactions to this year's Budget announcements. 

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, called it a "budget for builders".

Mr Berry said: "The Chancellor has put small and medium-sized builders at the heart of ambitious plans to tackle the growing housing crisis. 

"The Chancellor appears to be putting his money where his mouth.

"We are pleased that the Chancellor has listened to the needs of SME builders."

Matthew Adam, chief executive of Midlands firm We Are Digital said: "I welcome the Chancellor’s digital announcements and consider this budget as not so much a leap in the right digital direction, but more a necessary conservative step.”

But UNISON's West Midlands regional secretary, Ravi Subramanian described it as a "disappointing Budget". 

“This was a Budget to match the dull and gloom of a November day," he said.

"Dedicated public service employees deserve so much more than pats on the back.

"It’s time they and the hospitals, schools and councils they work for saw the colour of the Chancellor’s money."

A spokesman for Unite Community Worcestershire Branch said: "Prices are rising yet the benefit freeze continues. This budget brings little cheer to those already bearing the brunt of austerity - unemployed people and low-paid workers. Many people will not be looking forward to Christmas this year.

"Unite Community will be staging a protest against the roll-out of Universal Credit in the city centre on Saturday 2nd December. Come and join us."

Gary Woodman, chief executive of Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “It is pleasing to hear the chancellor state that the UK is at the forefront of emerging technology, and it is our ambition for Worcestershire to lead the way in elements of this technological revolution.

"The chancellor mentioned the importance of the UK’s universities in leading this innovation in technology and we are delighted to be working in partnership with the University of Surrey to develop 5G applications, to enable our local businesses to innovate and dramatically boost productivity.

“It is therefore great to hear of the plans for £500m to be invested into artificial intelligence, 5G and broadband - topics which will feature prominently at our annual conference next week on 1 December.

“The chancellor also spoke of the importance of investing in skills and infrastructure to improve the nation’s productivity and this is something we are investing heavily in locally. We have recently seen the completion of skills projects including Pershore College and the Centre of Vocational Excellence, helping to provide Worcestershire with the STEM skills required for the future of business.”