Zeichner: Autumn Statement bad news for Cambridge families
Mixed reaction to government's Autumn Statement
There has been a mixed reaction in Cambridgeshire to the Government’s Autumn Statement.
Cambridge Labour MP Daniel Zeichner called the statement “bad news for Cambridge families” while Ian Sandison, Chairman of Cambridge Business Improvement District (BID) maintained the city would benefit from R&D funding.
Mr Hammond declared that the government plans to ban letting agent fees and provide funds totalling £3.7bn for new housing projects. The money will top up the existing £4.7bn being spent on grants for affordable housing over the next five years.
It is also backing rail and new road building in the Oxford-Cambridge corridor with £110m worth of funding.
The National Living Wage will rise from £7.20 to £7.50 – worth more than £500 to a full-time worker and the tax-free personal allowance will go up by £500 to £11,500.
Fuel duty will be frozen for the seventh year in succession, saving the average car driver £130 a year and the average motorist £350.
But Mr Zeichner declared: “In the first Autumn Statement after Brexit we saw the Tories predict slower growth, higher inflation, weaker tax receipts and higher borrowing. Britain’s Brexit black hole is at least £122bn. It is clear the Tory Brexit shambles is starting to hit.
“This is bad news for families in Cambridge and bad news for our public services. I was astonished that nothing new was announced on resources for our NHS, this comes at a time when doctors and patients are crying out for more resources.
“I’m pleased that the Government have listened and re-confirmed their investment in the Oxford to Cambridge express way. But this policy has dragged on for too long, let’s get shovels in the ground instead of more promises.
“I have long called for new borrowing powers, including tax increment financing for cities like Cambridge. I look forward to seeing the details of his plans for new borrowing powers for mayors.”
But Mr Sandison said: “Rarely has there been a more important Autumn Statement because of the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote.
“Innovation was the big theme for Cambridge, with Hammond stressing the need for long-term investment in industries for the future and our science and tech industries will benefit from increased R&D investment and the proposed Oxford to Cambridge expressway.
“SMEs are forecast to contribute £217bn to the UK economy in 2020, however many smaller businesses are facing huge challenges and an uncertain economic outlook.
“We welcome any measures that help them such as reducing corporation tax and the government’s commitment to inject £400m, via the British Business Bank, to invest in small businesses with the potential for growth.”
The ban on letting agents was likely to stifle the housing market according to Sarah Bush, Director of Cambridge’s Cheffins Residential Lettings.
She said: “The government needs to focus on the regulation of agents rather than banning up-front fees in their entirety.
“Rogue agents charging astronomical fees create the headlines and subsequently all agents are deemed guilty by association. Fees that are charged by reputable agents can be accounted for and justified at every step of the letting process.
“The banning of fees across the board will ensure that the costs are passed directly to the landlord, who in turn will increase rental prices to cover their respective costs.
“A prohibition by the government on fees, combined with mortgage interest relief, will stifle a housing market that is already at breaking point and landlords are likely to leave the private rental sector en-masse.
“By trying to help tenants and pour cold water on the private rented sector, in reality the government is doing nothing but heating up the situation for both tenants and landlords alike.
“Landlords must continue to be protected if we are to encourage a thriving rental market.
“As ARLA-registered agents, we will be working with regulator ARLA and looking to find a solution that will protect registered landlords and our clients can be confident that we will support them every step of the way.”