George Osborne's Autumn Statement: live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the Chancellor's announcements and the OBR's new forecasts.

12:07pm Osborne ends with the message: "Britain is moving again. Let's keep going." (Please re-elect us.) 

12:04pm Employers' National Insurance will be scrapped on employees aged under 21, Osborne says. 

12:02pm Osborne announces that next year's fuel duty rise will be cancelled, praising the campaigning work of Tory MP Robert Halfon on this issue. But he doesn't deliver the cut that some predicted. 

11:59pm Through gritted teeth, the socially liberal Osborne confirms that the government will introduce a marriage tax allowance from April 2015 and that its value will be increased in line with the personal allowance (which will rise to £10,000 next year). 

11:58am He announces a £1,000 discount on business rates for all retailers valued at up to £50,000. 

11:55am Osborne says business rates increases will be capped at 2% for all premises (rather than 3.4%). 

11:53am Probably the biggest announcement from Osborne so far: the cap on student numbers will be abolished. 

11:51am He announces that anyone aged 18-21 claiming welfare without "basic skills" will be required to undertake training or "lose their benefits". 

11:47am Osborne announces a "priority right to move" for social housing tenants who need to move for a job.

11:46am A striking admission: "if we want more people to own their own homes, we need to build more homes". 

11:42am He announces the well-trailed introduction of capital gains tax on foreign property owners. At present, while British citizens pay CGT at 18% or 28% when they sell a property that is not their main home, non-residents are exempt. But with foreign investors purchasing around 70% of all new builds in central London, Osborne, still burdened by a deficit forecast to be £111bn this year, has spied a revenue-raising opportunity. 

11:41am Osborne has just used the stat often cited by Boris Johnson in defence of the super-rich: that they pay 30% of all income tax. That's true, but what he doesn't mention is that the 30% stat tells us less about what has happened to the tax system than it does about what has happened to the income system.

Over the period in question, the earnings of the rich have risen to previously unimaginable levels. As a recent OECD study showed, the share of income taken by the top 1% of UK earners increased from 7.1% in 1970 to 14.3% in 2005, while the top 0.1% took 5%. Quite simply, the rich are paying more because they're earning more. Is this really cause for us to thank them? If 11 million low and middle earners receive the pay rise they have been denied since 2003, they'll pay more tax too. 

11:35am Osborne has announced three new steps to enshrine fiscal "responsibility":

1. A new charter for budget responsibility committing the government to running a surplus. It will be put to a vote in parliament (a test for Labour). 

2. A cap on total welfare spending (as previously announced in the Spending Review). Osborne confirms that it will exclude the state pension and cyclical benefits such as JobSeeker's Allowance. 

3. Finally, he announces a further £2bn cut in departmental budget and a £1bn cut in the contingency reserve. 

11:28am He announces that the forecast deficit for this year has been revised down from £120bn to £111bn, but that's still £41bn higher than expected in 2010. 

Borrowing in 2014-15 is forecast to be £96bn, then £79bn in 2015-16, £51bn in 2016-17 and £23bn in 2017-18. That leaves him on track to halve the deficit (it was £159bn in 2009-10) by 2015-16, the same speed promised by Alistair Darling in 2010. 

11:26am On borrowing, Osborne announces that the OBR expects the government to run a budget surplus by 2018-19. 

11:23am Osborne boasts that employment is at a "record high" of 29.95m. That's true, but only because the population has risen. The rate, at 71.8%, remains well below its pre-recession peak of 73.1%.

11:21am Here are the OBR's revised growth forecasts: 1.4% (up from 0.6%), 2.4% ( up from 1.8%), 2.2%, 2.6%, 2.7%, 2.7% 

11:20am Tory MPs cry "apologise" at Labour as Osborne reminds MPs that GDP fell by 7.2% during the recession. 

11:19am Osborne tries to shoot Labour's fox by saying he will help families with the "cost-of-living" where he can. 

11:16am Osborne is up. He wastes no time in delivering his key political message: I have a "long-term" plan and "the biggest risk" comes from those who would "abandon" it. That's Ed Miliband and Ed Balls in case it wasn't clear. 

11:11am While we wait for Osborne to begin, here's 10 things to look out for today. 

George Osborne and Danny Alexander leave the Treasury on the way to parliament to deliver the Autumn Statement. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Let's turn RBS into a bank for the public interest

A tarnished symbol of global finance could be remade as a network of local banks. 

The Royal Bank of Scotland has now been losing money for nine consecutive years. Today’s announcement of a further £7bn yearly loss at the publicly-owned bank is just the latest evidence that RBS is essentially unsellable. The difference this time is that the Government seems finally to have accepted that fact.

Up until now, the government had been reluctant to intervene in the running of the business, instead insisting that it will be sold back to the private sector when the time is right. But these losses come just a week after the government announced that it is abandoning plans to sell Williams & Glynn – an RBS subsidiary which has over 300 branches and £22bn of customer deposits.

After a series of expensive delays and a lack of buyer interest, the government now plans to retain Williams & Glynn within the RBS group and instead attempt to boost competition in the business lending market by granting smaller "challenger banks" access to RBS’s branch infrastructure. It also plans to provide funding to encourage small businesses to switch their accounts away from RBS.

As a major public asset, RBS should be used to help achieve wider objectives. Improving how the banking sector serves small businesses should be the top priority, and it is good to see the government start to move in this direction. But to make the most of RBS, they should be going much further.

The public stake in RBS gives us a unique opportunity to create new banking institutions that will genuinely put the interests of the UK’s small businesses first. The New Economics Foundation has proposed turning RBS into a network of local banks with a public interest mandate to serve their local area, lend to small businesses and provide universal access to banking services. If the government is serious about rebalancing the economy and meeting the needs of those who feel left behind, this is the path they should take with RBS.

Small and medium sized enterprises are the lifeblood of the UK economy, and they depend on banking services to fund investment and provide a safe place to store money. For centuries a healthy relationship between businesses and banks has been a cornerstone of UK prosperity.

However, in recent decades this relationship has broken down. Small businesses have repeatedly fallen victim to exploitative practice by the big banks, including the the mis-selling of loans and instances of deliberate asset stripping. Affected business owners have not only lost their livelihoods due to the stress of their treatment at the hands of these banks, but have also experienced family break-ups and deteriorating physical and mental health. Others have been made homeless or bankrupt.

Meanwhile, many businesses struggle to get access to the finance they need to grow and expand. Small firms have always had trouble accessing finance, but in recent decades this problem has intensified as the UK banking sector has come to be dominated by a handful of large, universal, shareholder-owned banks.

Without a focus on specific geographical areas or social objectives, these banks choose to lend to the most profitable activities, and lending to local businesses tends to be less profitable than other activities such as mortgage lending and lending to other financial institutions.

The result is that since the mid-1980s the share of lending going to non-financial businesses has been falling rapidly. Today, lending to small and medium sized businesses accounts for just 4 per cent of bank lending.

Of the relatively small amount of business lending that does occur in the UK, most is heavily concentrated in London and surrounding areas. The UK’s homogenous and highly concentrated banking sector is therefore hampering economic development, starving communities of investment and making regional imbalances worse.

The government’s plans to encourage business customers to switch away from RBS to another bank will not do much to solve this problem. With the market dominated by a small number of large shareholder-owned banks who all behave in similar ways (and who have been hit by repeated scandals), businesses do not have any real choice.

If the government were to go further and turn RBS into a network of local banks, it would be a vital first step in regenerating disenfranchised communities, rebalancing the UK’s economy and staving off any economic downturn that may be on the horizon. Evidence shows that geographically limited stakeholder banks direct a much greater proportion of their capital towards lending in the real economy. By only investing in their local area, these banks help create and retain wealth regionally rather than making existing geographic imbalances worce.

Big, deep challenges require big, deep solutions. It’s time for the government to make banking work for small businesses once again.

Laurie Macfarlane is an economist at the New Economics Foundation