Friday’s headlines

Economics

Chancellor George Osborne laid out his plans for Britain’s economic future in his Autumn Statement speech yesterday morning, offering cautious optimism about the state of the country’s finances. He delivered good news on growth, unemployment and the deficit but warned that progress could be undone if plans were abandoned too soon. In his highly politically charged speech, Osborne sought to put Labour in its place by playing down the positive figures, citing a continued need for fiscal responsibility and spending cuts across government departments. (Cover of City A.M., cover of Financial Times, p.4 of Daily Express, p.11 and p.16 of Daily Mail)

However, Francis Elliott and Philip Aldrick writing for The Times say that fears about spiralling property prices and household debt tarnished Osborne’s claim that doubling of economic growth this year vindicated the coalition’s policies. Higher tax and lower borrowing forecasts allowed the Chancellor to claim that his austerity plan was working, saying Britain would clear its deficit by 2018. However, with much of the increase in tax revenues expected to come from bumper stamp duty returns and higher VAT receipts, Osborne finds himself faced with accusations of relying on an old-fashioned consumer boom to re-float the economy (p.18 of The Times)

Personal Finance

In his statement, Osborne also confirmed that customers will save around £50 on their energy bills through green policy reforms. Some green levies will be reduced or shifted into taxation, and three new energy-saving schemes will be implemented as part of the policy overhaul. All of the major suppliers have said they would pass savings down to customers. (p.26 of City A.M.)

The elderly will get an extra £2.95 a week in the basic state pension, according to Osborne. The Chancellor also said pensioners would be allowed to top up their allowances through the national insurance system. However, Osborne has also confirmed that the state pension age is set to increase, and that people now in their 40s would not get the state pension until they were 68 and those aged in their 30s would have to wait until they were 69. (p.6 The Daily Telegraph)

Property

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) admitted house prices had grown much more strongly this year than it expected at the time of the March Budget. It estimated that prices would grow by an average of 3.5% a year over the coming years, opening up to a 10% gap on its previous forecast by 2017-8. This prediction is likely to stoke concerns that the Government’s mortgage market subsidies risk creating a destabilising house price bubble (p.2 of Autumn Statement supplement in The Independent, p.7 of The Daily Telegraph)

Other

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black President who led his country to democracy, passed away last night aged 95. He died in his home in Johannesburg, where he had been receiving intensive medical care for a lung infection after spending three months in hospital. Zuma said Mandela would receive a full state funeral, and flags would be flown at half-mast. Prime Minister David Cameron is reported to have said “a great light has gone out in the world”.  (Cover of City A.M, cover of Financial Times, cover of The Times, cover of The Daily Telegraph, cover of The Guardian, cover of The Sun, cover of the Daily Mail, cover of the Daily Mirror)

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