The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, delivered the first Conservative Budget since 1996 to a packed House of Commons on Wednesday. Amid all of the booing, sneering, cheering, jeering, taunting, flaunting and heckling (and that was just from his own side), came some interesting changes to benefits and housing.
The big one is the new 'national living wage' — in effect, a new minimum wage of £7.20 an hour, starting from April 2016, rising to £9 an hour by 2020. But, crucially, this is only for the over 25s and it's less than the living wage recommended by the Living Wage Foundation, currently set at £7.85 nationally and £9.15 for London. Nobody's quite sure if this will be enough to take some of the sting out of the four year freeze and lower thresholds on working tax credits (also not available if you're under 25 and without children), it still doesn't provide enough to live on in London's superheated housing market without resorting to other types of benefit. Speaking of which...
Other working-age benefits, like Jobseekers' Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Benefit, Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will also be frozen for four years — though there will be "provision for high rent areas" for LHA, which we assume means London. 18-21 year olds are now no longer automatically entitled to housing benefit. As was widely anticipated, the benefit cap has been reduced to £23,000 for London and the inheritance tax threshold was raised.
We’ve also picked out a few cultural and transport areas which affect London:
- The Battle of Britain Bunker at RAF Uxbridge (which we recently visited) will receive £1m to renovate and maintain the Battle of Britain Operations Room which coordinated the air defence of London and the South of England in WWII.
- The Government is ‘backing’ Museum of London’s move to a new site — although no figures were given in the Treasury’s supporting documentation. The museum wants to move from London Wall to Smithfield General Market.
- The government ‘reaffirms’ its commitment to supporting £10bn of transport investment in London over this Parliament.
- Government plans to improve rail passenger journey times between London and the East of England, with Ipswich in 60 minutes and Norwich in 90 minutes being the targets.
By Rachel Holdsworth and Andy Thornley