Briefing

September Fiscal Statement: what you need to know

A summary of the government's Growth Plan for the UK economy, announced today by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

23 September 2022

Key points

  • Today, the new Chancellor announced a Growth Plan setting out a range of mainly supply-side budgetary policies to boost growth in the economy, and outlining more than £45 billion of tax cuts and spending.
  • The Health and Care Levy will be scrapped. However, the Chancellor confirmed that this will not impact planned NHS funding.
  • Details remain unclear, but the approximate £2 billion the Treasury had allocated for the NHS to pay for their own employer National Insurance contributions to the new levy, will be reallocated. Part of this money will go towards the new £500 million Adult Social Care Fund announced yesterday by the new health secretary Thérèse Coffey.
  • The Chancellor confirmed the energy support package for businesses that also applies to the NHS. For all non-domestic energy users in Great Britain this government-supported price has been set at £211 per megawatt hour (MWh) for electricity and £75 per MWh for gas. This will be reviewed in three months’ time
  • The NHS will also be given the power to carry forward 100 per cent of the proceeds of land sales into following years.
  • Controversially, the Chancellor chose not to publish projections and costings from the Office for Budget Responsibility. Therefore, we do not know the implications for overall government spending.
  • While the announced changes to personal taxation are intended to reduce the cost-of-living burden, they may not have significant impact on the majority of NHS staff, or the patients they treat.
  • There is to be a larger, more traditional Budget later in autumn, which is where we expect to see any health policy announcements. We will be working hard to influence the government, Treasury and the Chancellor ahead of this.

Today (23 September 2022), the new Chancellor announced a Growth Plan setting out a range of mainly supply-side budgetary policies to boost growth in the UK economy. The fiscal statement outlined more than £45 billion of tax cuts and spending.

Overview 

The headline measures introduced today covered energy costs, growth, infrastructure, employment, business and personal taxation.

Energy costs

There are several measures in response to rising energy costs. These include:

  • the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG), which caps the unit price consumers pay for electricity and gas
  • the Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS), which is a temporary six-month scheme offering a discount for businesses on wholesale gas and electricity prices
  • the Energy Markets Financing Scheme, delivered with the Bank of England. This provides additional liquidity to energy firms in otherwise sound financial health against the backdrop of high and volatile energy prices.

The chancellor estimated the cost of the energy package for the six months from October to be around £60 billion, although the costs are uncertain due to volatile energy prices. He also confirmed that the government’s plan to support with energy bills is predicted to reduce peak inflation by around 5 percentage points.

Growth

The government’s key target is a growth rate of 2.5 per cent. The central priorities of this plan are to cut taxes, expand the supply side of the economy through tax reform and to make ‘responsible decisions… including keeping spending under control.’

Updates will be forthcoming on plans to improve access to affordable and flexible childcare, reviewing agricultural productivity and rolling out further digital infrastructure to drive growth.

Infrastructure

The government committed to liberalising the planning system, which it sees as too slow and fragmented. Plans include streamlining consultation and approval requirements, with the aim of accelerating infrastructure projects. These projects will focus on digital, energy and transport.

The growth plan also includes increased incentives for the public sector to sell surplus land, allowing departments to retain more of the income. The NHS will be given full flexibility to carry forward 100 per cent of the proceeds from land sales into future years.

Employment

Today’s plan outlines that 120,000 Universal Credit claimants will be moved to the intensive work search labour market regime. This means they will be expected to actively search for work and attend regular appointments at a job centre to secure more or better paid work, or they could have their benefits reduced.

The government also plans to provide additional support for unemployed people over the age of 50 to find work. This means additional work coach support to claimants and long-term unemployed over 50 years old.

The chancellor also announced plans to introduce legislation to compel unions to put pay offers to members before strike action is allowed to take place.

Business

The government is to bring forward draft regulations to remove performance fees from the pension charge cap. It also announced the Long-Term Investment for Technology and Science (LIFTS) competition, with up to £500 million available to attract science and technology start-ups and investment to the UK. The removal of the bankers’ bonus cap was also trailed, with the Chancellor suggesting this made it more likely bankers would pay tax in the UK.

An increase in corporation tax for next year was cancelled, with previous plans due to increase the rate from 19 to 25 per cent. The rate will remain at 19 per cent. The Chancellor also confirmed plans to keep the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) at £1 million, which was due to expire after March 2023.

The government also plans to abolish the Office of Tax Simplification and set a mandate for HM Treasury and HMRC staff to focus on simplifying the tax code. The chancellor also put forward measures to remove EU-derived laws by 2023, and announced a repeal of the tax levied on freelancers and contractors (IR35 rules).

The government is to implement alcohol duty reform from 1 August 2023 and alcohol duty will be frozen from February 2023, and published its response to the Alcohol Duty Review consultation today.

Other business-related announcements included a new digital VAT-free shopping scheme that will enable non-UK visitors to obtain a VAT refund on goods bought on the high street and airports, and the creation of 40 investment zones with tax breaks for businesses, with the government working with areas including Tees Valley and the West Midlands.

Personal taxation

National Insurance contribution rates (NICs) increased by 1.25 percentage points in April 2022 to fund health and social care. This increase is now being reversed from November 2022. The Health and Social Care Levy, which was due to come in from April 2023 to replace the 1.25 percentage points increase in NICs, has also been cancelled. This will save the average household £330 per year. Funding for the NHS and social care will be maintained at the same level, funded through general taxation, as if the levy or NICs increase was in place.

From today (23 September), people purchasing homes will benefit from the stamp duty land tax threshold doubling to £250,000, effective for all home purchases. For first-time buyers, the threshold to begin to pay stamp duty will increase to £425,000 (an increase of £125,000). The maximum property value on which first-time buyers’ relief rate can be claimed will also increase by £125,000, to £625,000.

The 45 per cent top rate of tax for the country’s highest earners (those earning £150,000 or higher per year) will also be scrapped, with all top earners paying 40 per cent tax.

The basic rate of income tax will be cut to 19 pence (a 1 pence decrease) from April 2023.

Analysis

We did not expect to see large health announcements at today’s event, as the two important announcements on business energy support and the Health and Care Levy, were trailed in advance. While it is good news on both fronts, we remain concerned that the energy price cap for businesses is still too high given that prices have risen by up to 300 per cent in the previous two years.

Similarly, we didn’t expect the funding for health and care to be reduced. But, we’ve been clear in our analysis that the NHS will need at least another £4 billion to get us back to the funding levels pronounced at last year’s Spending Review. We will be working hard to influence the government, Treasury and the Chancellor on this ahead of the formal Autumn Budget later in the year.

Controversially, the Chancellor chose not to include projections and costings from the Office for Budget Responsibility, and the absence of this forecast makes it harder to assess the impact of today’s announcements on public finances.

And while the changes to personal taxation announced today are intended to reduce the cost-of-living burden, these will disproportionately benefit higher earners and may not have significant impact on the majority of NHS staff, or the patients they treat.

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