Expectations were extremely high for the Autumn Budget - and the Chancellor’s room for manoeuvre was extremely limited. The Government continues to whittle away at the enormous deficit left by its predecessor - now down by two-thirds since 2010 - and, thanks to careful economic management and the continuing contribution of the British people, we are now reaching a turning point. This year debt as a proportion of GDP will start to fall: the battle against debt is being won.
Coupled to cutting-edge policies to reduce tax evasion and fraud, this allowed Spreadsheet Phil to find money for some vital causes. Over £6.3bn was pumped into the NHS to ensure that it retains its place as the world’s premier health service. This includes money to upgrade buildings and get waiting times down - and to help services prepare for winter.
The Prime Minister has said that she will make it a personal priority to fix the broken housing market and help more people realise the dream of buying their own home. So the Chancellor backed her vision by abolishing Stamp Duty for 95% of first time buyers and announced measures to create record levels of House building. I was personally delighted to hear that a lot of this building will be focused on new towns. I have no doubt that the only sustainable way to get the homes we need without overstretching our existing towns and villages is to create new settlements with all the infrastructure - roads, schools and GP surgeries - already plugged in.
There are, of course, challenges ahead, the major ones being, despite record employment, poor wage growth and low productivity. As the Chancellor said, he is ready to take on the productivity puzzle and seek to improve people’s incomes.
Last month I spoke in a debate in the Commons on Universal Credit calling on the Government to further improve our flagship welfare reform. So I was particularly pleased the Chancellor announced a £1.5 billion package to help claimants receive more money sooner.
Finally there was a tax cut for 30 million people - good news all round!