The Autumn Statement: How is Sheffield going to be affected?

Sheffield was a city split. Just over half voted to leave the European Union and, as with everything in politics post-referendum, it’s your fault. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, made it clear that it was the voters who had put him in this position.

It wasn’t the promised emergency budget, but it was close enough.

A £4bn tax-grab on insurance, hard-won employee perks taxed and national insurance changes. Lower productivity, higher inflation and lower migration. All going to make us poorer according to the ‘independent’ Office of Budget Responsibility, a government statistics watchdog, says.

The only good news is that the Autumn Statement has been moved. It’s now in Spring.

But how does the autumn statement actually affect you? These are the three most important changes.

Rent rises on the horizon?

With 38,800 houses let out to tenants, Sheffield is becoming a city of renters. Private landlords dominate 16% of the housing stock and, with that, comes a huge amount of cash up for grabs from tenants swapping homes.

The average amount renters have to shill out to agencies is £223, with research suggesting that one in seven private landlords have paid over £500 to secure their property.

Lettings agencies are angry, ready to pass the lost income onto renters.

One letting agency has said that the chancellor ‘demonises’ lettings agents. Another, Allsop Letting and Management, who let ‘exclusive’ properties in Sheffield, said that a better measure would have been to set an industry cap on fees.

“These costs will now have to be borne by the landlord alone, which is likely to push up rents in the short term,” the managing director, Andy Jones, said.

The lettings agencies arguments are not supported by the evidence.

Since 2012 Scotland has banned the use of extra fees and fees increased by 5%. In the same year, however, rent increased by 8.6% in England. When the fee-ban was introduced, there was no sharp rise.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “We have long been campaigning on this issue and it’s great to see that the government has taken note.

“Our recent survey found that nearly half of renters had been asked to pay fees that they thought were too high, with many having to borrow money every time they move, so this will make a huge difference to all those scraping by in our expensive, unstable renting markets.”

With the latest figures showing that rents in Yorkshire have only increased by 1.5% in the past year, one of the lowest increases in the country, it seems unlikely that your rent is going to rise beyond the average no matter how much your landlord tells you it is.

Minimum wage up, but no wage rises for ten years

One-in-twenty Sheffield workers are set to benefit from the “National Living Wage” rising by 30p, to £7.50 an hour next year.

The figure, recommended by the Low Pay Commission, is 10p lower than expected and equivalent to £500 a year to a full-time worker.

The Treasury say that it was designed to “improve the living standards of ordinary working class people,” but pressure groups and opposition MPs disagree.

Gill Furniss, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hilsborogh, says that the governments ‘long term economic plan’ hasn’t worked.

“They claim to be helping those who are just about managing, but are more interested in chasing headlines than improving people’s lives.

“When the Tory ‘Living Wage’ was launched last year, it was supposed to reach £7.20 an hour in 2017. Yesterday we found out it will be £7.50 per hour, leaving some people £200 a year out of pocket.”

Katherine Chapman, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said that the pressure group welcomes any pay rise for low paid workers.

“The reality is however that a fifth of UK workers aren’t paid enough to live on. There’s still a gap between the government minimum wage and our real Living Wage of £8.45 in the UK which is based on what family’s need to earn and meet everyday costs,” she said.

Projections suggest that in 2021 you are still going to have a worse living standard than you would have in 2008. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies real average earnings are forecast to rise by less than 5% between now and 2021. That is more than a decade without real earnings growth.

So even if you aren’t on minimum wage, you are still going to be poorer than you would be in 2008.

Driving your car is a bit less expensive. Sort of. 

With the price of fuel set to rise the government has implemented yet another fuel duty freeze. For the seventh year running you can rest easy that the government at only taking 67% of the price you pay in tax.

With the price per litre in Sheffield just below national average, at 114p according the AA, drivers can clock a few more miles than they would otherwise. But the fuel duty freeze isn’t going to pay for itself. Next year the average family is going to pay £90 more for their car and home insurance.

Three postcodes in Sheffield are already in the top-100 most expensive places for car insurance, with the highest risk places in the county paying almost £4000 per year.

Director of Insurance at RAC, Mark Godfrey, says that the hiking of Insurance Premium Tax is the “stealth tax of our time.”

“After a recent double rise in Insurance Premium Tax, this further increase is a slap in the face for motorists who will surely see their premiums rise once again.

“Insurance premiums have already risen by over £100 compared to last year, and motorists have told us they are feeling the pinch, with 57% telling us that their premiums have increased over the past 12 months.”

More…

Pensioners are still going to be loaded, with the “Pension Triple Lock” still in place, meaning pensioners are still one of the only groups who are better off than they were before the 2008 financial crash, the 15 hours a week of free child care is to be doubled for three to four-year-old’s, and the government is promising to tackle the productivity crisis the British economy faces by pumping in £23 billion into “innovation and infrastructure.”