Autumn statement: brill for builders, perturbing for pensioners

Philip Hammond’s first autumn statement has delivered winners and losers. But who are they?



The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) called Hammond’s spending on infrastructure “modest”. But an extra £2.3bn infrastructure fund for a promised 100,000 new homes is good news if you know how to build a wall or lay sewage piping, or employ lots of people who do.

See also the promises of funding for 40,000 extra “affordable” homes, a new road linking Oxford and Cambridge and more broadband fibre installation in homes and businesses.

Jane Austen fans

A niche demographic, perhaps, but every vote counts. The most conspicuous rabbit Hammond pulled from his hat was £7.6m to “save” Wentworth Woodhouse, described by the chancellor as “one of the UK’s most important historic houses”.

The house, Hammond said, was the inspiration for Pride and Prejudice’s Pemberley, although it is not the only stately home to make such a claim. People “just about managing” on low incomes are certain to be delighted.

Civil servants

Hammond is setting aside £412m to help Whitehall wonks “strengthen trade policy capacity” and “support the renegotiation of the UK’s relationship” with the EU in the run-up to Brexit.

This is surely unrelated to a memo leaked last week that suggested the civil service was struggling to cope with the enormous task of leaving the EU, or to the suggestion by a number of former senior mandarins that the service is unprepared for the task.


To cheers, Hammond announced he would “stand on the side of the millions of hardworking people” by cancelling the rise in fuel duty. The fact that this is the seventh year in a row in which the government has done so may lessen the surprise somewhat, but the chancellor boasted this would save the average driver £130 a year.

Motorists may also be cheered by the £220m to help solve traffic “pinch points” on strategic roads and a commitment to resurface 80% of the strategic road network.


Letting agents

It couldn’t happen to a more popular bunch. Shares in some of Britain’s biggest estate agencies plummeted in response to the chancellor’s move to ban “as soon as possible” the large fees charged by agents when letting properties to new tenants.

The move was welcomed by campaign groups including Shelter, but others warned that agents and landlords could pass on the expenses in the form of higher rents – an argument advanced, notably, by the housing minister Gavin Barwell in September.

Gavin Barwell MP (@GavinBarwellMP)

@insidehousing Bad idea – landlords would pass cost to tenants via rent. We’re looking at other ways to cut upfront costs & raise standards

September 19, 2016

Gym bunnies

If your gym membership is through your job, that is. To “promote fairness”, the government is ending the tax and national insurance breaks available for a range of workplace benefits, including gym memberships, phone contracts, computers and private medical insurance contributions.

Pension arrangements, childcare vouchers and the cycle-to-work scheme are protected, but perks for company cars (except low-emissions vehicles), school fees and accommodation will be excluded from 2021. Get on that treadmill while you can.


What seemed like a promise was really more of a threat. Pensioners have benefited since 2010 from the so-called “triple-lock”, a guarantee that the state pension will go up every year by either inflation, the average rise in earnings or 2.5%, whichever is the highest. This is great if you’re older, but not if you’re a 20-something on a low wage who feels the baby boomers are still hogging all the good stuff.

Hammond vowed the government would “meet our pledge” to protect pensions until 2020; after that, however, it will need to look at “the challenges of rising longevity and fiscal sustainability”. Which sounds awfully like a warning.


Everyone’s favourite soft-tissue neck injury has been quite the thing over the past decade, during which time claims to car insurers have soared by 50%, costing them about £1bn a year and motorists around £40 each in increased premiums.

This, the government says, is “unacceptably high”. What’s more, it doesn’t – shock! – believe all the claims are genuine. It’s looking at scrapping or capping the right to compensation. Insurers have promised to pass on the savings, according to the government. No, honestly, they really will.