Autumn Statement brings back UK’s ‘squeezed middle’

Shefali Saxena Tuesday 22nd November 2022 12:46 EST

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced his Autumn Statement on 17th November, aiming to restore stability to the economy, protect high-quality public services and build long-term prosperity for the United Kingdom. While the statement brings respite for pensioners who will receive £300, it borderline mocks the state of disabled people who will only receive £150. 


DisabilityEdUK Development Group told Asian Voice, “We are a network of disabled teachers. The main concern for all disabled people is whether their financial support is cut.  It costs more in travel, people may need the less populated carriages in first class, they could need more leg room, additional wheelchair access, access to toilet and washing facilities, adapted clothing or comfortable clothing, special diets etc and this all-costs money. The community of disabled teachers is no different. Disabled teachers can be prone to more illness and time off work and at a time with less money in the education system and talk of disability benefits being cut again that increases worry about whether or not their schools will still support them and want to keep them long term.”


More than eight million households on means-tested benefits will receive a cost-of-living payment of £900 in instalments. The plan set out by the Chancellor is reportedly designed to fight inflation in the face of unprecedented global pressures brought about by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. 


The Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said: “There is a global energy crisis, a global inflation crisis and a global economic crisis. But today with this plan for stability, growth and public services, we will face into the storm. We do so today with British resilience and British compassion. Because of the difficult decisions we take in our plan, we strengthen our public finances, bring down inflation and protect jobs.” 

Asian Voice reached out to experts in the community for their observations and impact of the Autumn Statement. 

For instance, the National Living Wage will increase to £10.42 per hour with effect from 6 April 2023. (Turn to P17 to read a detailed analysis of the Autumn Statement by Kiran D Patel BA (Hons) ACIPP BFP FCA, Director, Albury Associates)


Suresh Vagjiani, Sow & Reap Properties Ltd told the newsweekly, “The number of deals that are collapsing after a sale price has been agreed, upon has started to increase dramatically. Things will probably get tougher over the next year; we believe this will start this coming January. Also, some of the measures outlined in the Autumn Statement like the reduced income tax threshold and reduction in the annual threshold for capital gains tax disincentivise landlords from investing in the Private Rental Sector (PRS). This could lead to a reduction in the number of properties available for rent, and therefore, their affordability for tenants. But even after all these issues it looks like many investors are in a position to weather the storm, and come out stronger on the other side; and also are ready to grab opportunities that will come across over the next 6 – 12 months.”


Mohsin Rashid, Co-founder of ZIPZERO, (which uses marketing to generate cash support towards consumer utility bills) said: “The failed Truss experiment left a burning hole in the UK economy, the size of £30 billion. From irresponsible to unforgiving government, the bitter return to austerity will no doubt double down on hardship across the whole country. 

“People are struggling, and they are desperately concerned. Concerned over how they will pay their bills, keep the lights on and put food on the table. This government’s response is unconscionable: unnamed Council tax 'flexibilities', disenfranchising residents from their rights to approve large hikes and stripping down energy support into a skeleton package unfit to carry consumers past the finish line, all while raising personal taxes.

“Has the government forgotten its own mantra? There’s no magic money tree. Asking the country to play Sophie's Choice over which essential item to sacrifice this week will only promote personal and national decline, in a new age of Victorian misery. While there are no fruitful horticultural solutions out there, consumers should take advantage of all money-saving opportunities at their disposal. In particular, the ongoing fight for the right of consumer data is revolutionising the marketing sector and providing consumers with generous cash rewards through direct-to-consumer marketing platforms”.


Hospitality: Continued damage to business confidence


Asma Khan, Founder of Darjeeling Express told Asian Voice, “The mini-budget of the previous conservative administration has continued to damage business confidence. I requested money from the bank to renovate my new restaurant, but they wouldn't give it to me. Due to the rising costs of food ingredients and electricity expenses, it is less likely that households would spend on luxuries this Christmas. Financial uncertainty has a disproportionately negative impact on small businesses and independent store owners.”


Social care: Falls short 


Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said, “Whilst the extra funding for social care is welcome and will help with some of the pressure points in social care, it still falls short of what we really need to give carers the breaks and support they need – 40% of carers have not had a break in the last year. Long-term sustainable funding of social care must remain an urgent priority for Government, to provide a decent life for people needing care, to prevent carers from having to give up work in order to care and to stop their health and wellbeing from deteriorating.”


Stabilising public finances inevitably means difficult decisions


Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Chief Economist, said, “Backing the CBI’s call for a freeze in business rates and smoothing the increase for those facing higher bills is very welcome. But stabilising public finances inevitably means difficult decisions have to be taken. Businesses will view a freeze in NICs thresholds and further windfall taxes as the sharpest stings in the tail. Firms will also need more detail on what happens with the business energy support scheme in the coming weeks.”

For NHS workforce plan to work it cannot ignore pay and conditions


Dr Emma Runswick, BMA council deputy chair, said, “Staff have had enough. Real terms pay is continuing to fall, made worse by sky-high inflation, so many are being left with no choice but to consider industrial action. There is a glimmer of hope in that the Chancellor clearly recognises the severe staffing shortages we have in the NHS, announcing the much-needed workforce plan, importantly including independently-verified modelling covering the next 15 years, to be published next year.”

According to GMC data almost 10,000 doctors left the UK medical workforce last year, with around half going overseas. Britain will continue to see this haemorrhage of expert clinicians if no action is taken to reverse more than a decade of real terms pay cuts and fix pension tax rules that punish doctors for going to work.

The BMA deputy chair also mentioned that until the Government puts in place a long-term solution, we will continue to see our most highly skilled clinicians retiring in their prime or reducing hours right when patients need them most. We urge him to work with the BMA’s pensions committee to resolve this.

“This failure to match spending with the cost of providing care means services will inevitably be impacted and patients will suffer further,” she added.


Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive, said: “While I am under no illusions that NHS staff face very testing times ahead, particularly over winter, this settlement should provide sufficient funding for the NHS to fulfil its key priorities. As ever, we will act with determination to ensure every penny of investment delivers for patients.”


Abigail Wood, CEO of Age UK London said: “The cost-of-living crisis is worsening with many older Londoners making hard choices about how they spend their limited funds and cutting back on basics from food, heating and getting out and using public transport. Our recent research has revealed that four in five Londoners over 60 (80%) say they are turning the heating on at home less than they did this time last year, and 56 per cent are shopping less. Over a third of over 60s in London (36%) say they are already struggling to make ends meet.”

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