When it was suggested I comment on George Osborne’s autumn statement for this column, my reaction was ‘What statement?’. I hadn’t taken any notice of it, as after years of broken promises from all parties, it’s difficult to get excited about it all.
Having taken time to Google his statement, there were the usual three ‘r’s, reinvigorating, re-organising and restructuring, but sadly he acknowledged the most likely ‘r’ we will get is recession! The freeze on the 3p rise on fuel duty due in January sounded like good news, but 3p is a drop in the ocean when prices at the pumps vary by 10p a litre.
Rising fuel prices have been one of the key reasons why the average family’s disposable income has decreased. Mr Osborne does point out, however, that the average family will save £144 a year as a result of the January fuel duty freeze, combined with the reduction of 2p on the 5p August increase. That’s an approach I might use in my shops. I will have window posters advising customers they can ‘save a £1 on a loaf of Kingsmill’. The small print will, of course, inform them that I had planned to increase my Kingsmill by a £1 to £2.39, but that I had frozen the increase and they are all now saving £1. Triffic idea, Rodney - Del Boy would be proud of us both!
Creating jobs is the key to economic recovery, but there was little to be optimistic about here. The £1bn youth contract, which will include wage incentives for employers to take on up to 160,000 young people, sounds good, but is it just window dressing? With little growth in the economy, are there private sector employers able to take them on? There are also to be incentive payments for small businesses to take on young apprentices, but are these now just seen as cheap labour?
It’s hard not to feel we are all sitting on a sinking ship, but at least Mr Osborne will reward all those on welfare with a rise in line with inflation. At least they will be able to afford their Sky subscriptions.