Today Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his first Autumn Statement, which will give us the first idea as to how Theresa May’s Government will approach public spending in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and the subsequent fall in value of the pound.
Despite slower economic growth than was forecast, the Chancellor has withdrawn his predecessor’s commitment to achieving a budget surplus by 2019-20. However, his priority is to ensure we are “match-fit” for the transition towards leaving the EU.
Below are just some examples of how NatCen data can shed light on who will be affected by some of today's announcements and how they are likely to be received by the public. We will add to the blog as we digest the Autumn Statement over the next few days.
Banning upfront fees imposed by letting agents in England
The English Housing Survey shows that in 2014-15, 19% of all households - 4.3 million households - were private renters. In fact, it’s now overtaken the social rented sector as the second largest housing sector. And it’s not just young professionals who rent; over a third (36%) of privately renting households are families with dependent children.
Mr Hammond’s plan would affect the 40% of private renters – around 1.7 million households - who said they were charged a fee by a landlord or letting agency when renting. Of these people, 76% said that they were made aware of all upfront fees before they started viewing properties, but 18% said that some charges were hidden from them.
Scrapping these fees will save private renters a significant amount of money in the long run. The mean average fee amount paid in 2014-15 was £223, while the median was £200. EHS found that private renters stayed in their accommodation for a relatively short period of time compared to other tenures: on average, private renters had lived at their current address for 4 years compared with 11.4 years for social renters and 17.5 years for owner occupiers.
Housebuilding in England
Some good news for the Chancellor, who has pledged £1.4bn to build 40,000 new homes in England. NatCen's British Social Attitudes survey found that opposition to building new homes fell substantially between 2010 and 2014, proving that the public may be coming round to the idea that building new homes may be necessary. But the public’s response will depend on where the Government decides to build those new homes. In 2014, opposition to new homes was highest among respondents living on ‘a farm or home in the country’ (32%) and ‘a country village’ (27%). Opposition was lowest amongst those living in big cities (10%).
Mr Hammond announced £1.1bn investment in Britain’s roads, with a particular emphasis on boosting economic growth and productivity. It will include £220m to tackle congested stretches of England’s key roads.
Figures from the National Travel Survey suggest that this could go down well with much of the public. Although car use is decreasing, cars are still the most common mode of transport – accounting for 64% of trips and 78% of distance travelled in 2014. But whilst improved roads will almost certainly be appreciated, it’s unclear whether the roadworks necessary will be quite as welcome.
Reviewing public spending
The Chancellor also announced that he would maintain many benefits, such as the triple lock on State Pensions, but will review the public spending priorities for the next Parliament. He may want to take a look at NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey, which has been tracking the public’s priorities on public spending since 1983. Health and education have consistently been at the top of the public’s list for more spending, so the Autumn Statement’s focus on investment in industry and roads amid the ongoing debates about the NHS and grammar schools could leave many unsatisfied.