The Chancellor has given his first Spring Budget today and maybe, as expected, we’re left waiting for his Autumn Budget to see any big changes. So what do you make of the announcements?
Perhaps waiting around for major changes should’ve been expected today given the Chancellor’s decision to move away from a Spring Budget. This decision means that we’ll have yet another Budget at the end of the year.
In any case, here’s an overview of the key consumer issues that cropped up today.
Consumer and Markets Green Paper
We’re pleased that the Chancellor provided a bit more detail on the forthcoming Consumer and Markets Green Paper. In this the Government plans to tackle T&Cs, in order to make them clearer, simpler and shorter. It also plans to give more powers to enforcement agencies, such as the Competition and Markets Authority.
But we know many of you have been expecting to see tougher action on the issues that you face in critical markets, such as financial services, energy, telecoms and transport.
As per my Conversation last week, Which? revealed that there are millions of working people who are currently struggling to make ends meet.
Many of you shared your stories with us, such as Sharongibbs who explained the difficulty of relying on food banks:
‘My daughter and her family are struggling her partner works and they were on tax credits this has been changed to universal credit and they are getting less money now come the end of the month they are struggling they have had to use the food bank and rely on family to help.’
And for Tony Cave, it’s been a struggle to decide between heating or eating:
‘Just managing for me means spending only what I can afford and living within my means.This means that during the past winter I had to make the choice between eating and heating so my flat was only heated for 2 days at Christmas and not before or after.’
The Chancellor’s continued commitment to making essential markets work for consumers is welcome, but we now need to see comprehensive plans to tackle these markets in the Green Paper.
We also need the Government to urgently set out how consumers will be prioritised in the Brexit negotiations.
The Chancellor also announced a £2bn investment in social care services in England.
Alongside this, we look forward to seeing the Government’s paper reviewing ways of helping people meet the cost of elderly care. There are rumours that this could include tax-free access to pensions, the launch of a ‘Care Isa’ and a potential cap on the total cost of care.
Savings and pensions
After years of seismic changes to pensions, they barely got a mention in this year’s Budget.
The only major change was announced in last year’s Autumn Statement – a reduction to the amount you can put into a private or workplace pension after you’ve started drawing on your retirement savings.
On the savings front, the Chancellor confirmed something we’ve long suspected – the National Savings and Investments ‘Guaranteed Growth Bond’, which launches in April and will pay 2.2% a year for three years.
We will continue to track these developments in the coming year.
For now, what are your views on the Budget? Is it ‘see you in Autumn’ or is the Markets Green Paper going to be enough for you to feel that the Government is working to address where things are not working in essential markets?