HELP for Worcester's shops, pubs and cafes were announced by the Chancellor today - and a tax cut for working people in the Autumn Statement.

George Osborne also announced a freeze in fuel duty to help motorists and reductions in stamp duty for 98 per cent of home buyers in a statement which presented a mixed bag for the economy.

But in a three-pronged bid to help Britain's High Streets take on the internet, he announced a 50 per cent increase on small business rate relief meaning pubs, shops and cafes will £1,500 discounts.

On top of that, any Government increase in business rates will be capped at two per cent, instead of being linked to inflation like before last year, and a major review will also take place with a view to bringing in huge reform to the tax by 2016 to reflect the enormous growth of online shopping.

The move, aimed at reviving town and city centres, was hailed by Worcester MP Robin Walker in parliament this afternoon, who called the country "a nation of shopkeepers".

The personal allowance - the amount people can earn before tax kicks in - is also rising to £10,600 from April, £100 more than expected and £600 higher than today's rate.

Analysts suggested the move would be worth £850 a year to workers, boosting spending power.

Mr Walker said: “This is a huge boost for the high street and in our ‘nation of shopkeepers’ it will be a great relief.

“I want to see our party lead the charge on business rates reform and I am delighted that after years of campaigning we are now seeing a commitment to it from the Chancellor.

“The extra boost of £1,500 for shops cafes and pubs in Worcester will make a real difference.”

Publican Colin Kenwrick, of the Berkeley Arms in School Road, St John’s said: "Any help is good help in my view - trade is up and down, one week it's good and the next week it's not.

"Small pubs need that money especially, so it's welcome news."

Adrian Field, from Worcester's Business Improvement District (BID), which represents city retailers, said: "The clear indication we've got is that business rates as they are now are outdated, so the fact the Government will review this will be welcomed by all and sundry.

"Online has had an impact on the High Street, if they are saying 'it's time to look at the bricks and mortar' that's good news.

"Anything to help keep more businesses, pubs and cafes stay open is a good thing."

Elsewhere, Mr Osborne announced fuel duty will again be frozen - with people in the county giving it a cautious reaction.

Roy Devlia, who runs Powick Service Station, said: "A freeze is good but why can't we have a cut?

"Most of our money goes in duty. If they actually cut it, we would be in a far better position."

The Chancellor also told the Commons more will be done to help employers, with a £2,000 discount for National Insurance on all apprentices under 25 to boost young people.

On top of that, postgraduates can now apply for student loans for the first time, worth up to £10,000, to avoid deterring those at university from boosting their CVs further.

Mike Ashton, chief executive of Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: " The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement addressed a number of concerns that are of fundamental importance for local businesses.

“We are delighted that a full review of the broken and outdated business rates system is going to be undertaken, but stress that this must be a fundamental overhaul, as opposed to simply tinkering around the edges.

"The rates have been a continual scourge for businesses for longer than we wish to remember, so the promise of change must be met with concrete action.

“In addition, the abolition of national insurance for all young apprentices is much needed if the Prime Minister’s target of three million apprentices in the next parliament is to be met.

“The measure sends a clear message that Britain is committed to investing in its future workers, ensuring that we have a highly skilled workforce long into the future.

“We also welcome the measures relating to R&D tax breaks, the Funding for Lending scheme. the measures surrounding air passenger duty and the £45 million afforded to first time exporters.

“These will help incentivise Britain’s innovators and make it easier for them to break into global markets.”

Elsewhere, air passenger duty for children under 12 will be abolished next year, and under 16s the following year, while an extra £2 billion will be poured into the NHS.

VAT for hospices and air ambulances would be refunded, a boost for the likes of St Richard's Hospice and the Midlands Air Ambulance, while stamp duty will be slashed to help 98 per cent of house buyers.

We understand the VAT changes will be worth tens of thousands to both organisations per year.

Under the new regime no stamp duty will be paid on the first £125,000 of a property, followed by two per cent on a home worth up to £250,000 and five per cent on those up to £925,000.

Sir Peter Luff, MP for Mid-Worcestershire, said it would "really help people with average sized homes who want to move".

On the economy, growth is forecast at three per cent this year, up from 2.4 per cent predicted in March, but it will fall steadily to 2.3 per cent by 2019.

Government borrowing is forecast at £91.3 billion this year, higher than old predictions of £87 billion, although Mr Osborne said the UK would be "back in the black" and in a budget surplus by 2018/19.

"The deficit is falling this year and every year," Mr Osborne said, although he added that "warning lights are flashing over the global economy".

Labour's shadow chancellor Ed Balls said the Government had questions to answer about living standards, wages and tax receipts, adding: "There is a cost of living crisis."

Other measures announced today include changes to ISAs, so in the event of a death it can be transferred over to their partner tax free, in a move designed to help pensioners.

The £2.3 billion for flood protection, first revealed yesterday, was brought up again, alongside the £15 billion for Britain’s roads.

The popular £20 million Cathedral Renovation Fund will continue for another year – a kitty which resulted in £250,000 to carry out repairs being handed to Worcester Cathedral back in October.

During clashes in the commons, Labour said the Chancellor had failed to keep his 2010 general election promise to balance the books, but after the debate West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin called it a statement showing "long term plans for a strong economy".

She said: “This really is a statement that offers a great deal of good news for hard-working families and pensioners across West Worcestershire.

“The Chancellor outlined some fundamental reforms in stamp duty making it easier for people own their own home and climb the property ladder.

“Many employers have taken on apprentices and I continue to encourage local firms to offer training and work opportunities to young people if at all possible.

“The Government will now abolish National Insurance contributions for employers who employ an apprentice under 25 to back young people to get the skills they need to get on in life.

“There is some good news on the transferability of ISAs that mean that in the event of a partner dying, the ISA may be transferred and not pay tax.

“The deficit has been cut in half, yet more money has been found for the NHS, local GPs, transport infrastructure and flood protection, I am sure local people will agree that we need a long term plan for a strong economy so that we can have strong public services.”


THE grey vote was again targeted in the Autumn Statement – with big changes to ISAs to help savers.

From now on, whenever a pensioner dies an ISA can be transferred over to their partner without any taxation kicking in.

The move follows years of lobbying from groups representing the elderly, such as Age Concern, that too many old people have to hand over thousands to the Government after a loved one dies.

It will also apply to widows and widowers in general. The Treasury estimates that 150,000 married ISA savers pass away each year, meaning their ISA tax advantages die with them, even if they were saving as a couple.

Pensioner Brian Cooke, 71, of Seymour Avenue, Barbourne, Worcester, said; “Too many people end up paying taxes like this even when they get very old and infirm.

“It’s never been fair. The state pension in this country has always been half decent but most of us need to dip into our savings so this is very good.”

Mr Osborne today announced that from April 2015, the ISA allowance will rise to £15,240, and the changes to the starting rate of savings tax will mean that those earning under £15,600 need pay no tax on any of their savings income.


TODAY spelled bad news for the public sector, with Mr Osborne saying he would go on looking for savings and look to restrain spending in general.

Mr Osborne told MPs that £12 billion had been saved by limiting wage rises, adding that similar savings were expected in the next Parliament by continuing with the policy.

Unions reacted with anger to the announcement, pointing out that disputes over public sector pay are still raging.

Ravi Subramanian, UNISON West Midlands Regional Secretary, said: “There is nothing in his statement that will support workers and the lowest-paid.

“Nothing to help the million of public sector workers who have seen the value of their pay fall by at least 10 per cent since this coalition came to power.

"Workers are paying the price of austerity while the rich and privileged share the benefits. The Government has nothing but contempt for the hardworking people in this country.”


THE picture on the economy depends on whether your glass is half full or half empty – and the good news is that growth this year will hit three per cent, 0.6 per cent higher than originally predicted in March.

The deficit has been cut in half since 2010 and according to the Chancellor, Britain will finally be in budget surplus for the first time in a generation come 2018/19 if things go to plan.

Public finances are expected to be firmly in surplus by 2018/19, by £4 billion, slightly ahead of the previous forecast of £3.7 billion. A surplus of £23 billion is expected for 2019/20.

But growth is forecast to slow down over the next three years, with the estimates now cut every year to 2018, when it will stand at 2.3 per cent.

During his statement today, Mr Osborne hailed the UK’s “fiscal credibility”, and blamed “global choppy waters” for the future forecasts being revised down.

Borrowing for 2015/16 is expected to fall to £75.9 billion, worse than the £68.3 billion previously expected.

But the outlook for 2016/17 of a £40.9 billion shortfall is better than the £41.5 billion previously set out, while for 2017/18 expected borrowing is likely to be £14.5 billion, an improvement on the previously pencilled-in £15.8 billion.


WORCESTER MP Robin Walker played a key role in encouraging Mr Osborne to help shops, pubs and cafes, a fact mentioned by the Chancellor in the Commons today.

The Conservative secured the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee inquiry into retail and the future of the high street earlier this year which recommended “fundamental reform”.

Your Worcester News can also reveal how he spoke about the case for business rates reform at the Conservative Party conference this year with the British Chambers of Commerce and leading industrial companies – and raised it with the Chancellor at the last meeting of the 1922 backbench committee before today’s Autumn Statement.

Today Mr Osborne described him as “champion for small businesses in Worcester” and admitted it was partly down to his lobbying that he decided upon the changes.