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Boost for pensioners, job seekers and motorists in Autumn Statement
PENSIONERS, young job seekers and motorists were given a big boost in Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement today - despite another £3bn of cuts being announced.
The state pension will rise £2.95 a week from April - worth £153 during the year - in a bid to appease older voters.
But people aged in their 40s now will not get the state pension until they are 68, and those aged in their 30s will have to wait until they are 69.
During fiery clashes in the House of Commons, Mr Osborne said he had to make “difficult decisions” and be “serious about controlling public finances”.
A planned 2p per litre rise in fuel duty has also been scrapped, and a £1,000 tax allowance is set to be introduced for married couples by 2015.
The key points of his statement have been given the thumbs up by Worcester’s MP but welcomed less cautiously elsewhere.
City MP Robin Walker said: “Broadly, there was a lot of good news for the economy, for businesses and very positive things for the public too.
“People are living longer and that is great news but it also puts a huge strain on our pension system and increases the cost of properly providing for the elderly.
“There is a choice to give less over a longer period of time or to decide to move the age of retirement and ensure we can provide proper support to people.”
But Brian Hunt, 76, vice-chairman of Worcestershire Pensioners’ Action Group, said: “Nobody can say we don’t want this money but I remember they took £50 off the winter heating allowance.
“When it comes to working older, the jobs have to be there and older people don’t always get those opportunities.
“I know I couldn’t do a 40-hour week and lots of older people are the same.”
Worcester taxi driver Manish Patel, 51, said: “I drive a diesel car for work and petrol out of work and the costs have become ridiculous.
“There’s no way he could have put it up 2p per litre, it’s not on. I like what he’s done but a cut would be even better.”
Mr Osborne announced £3bn of cuts to Government departments over the next three years, but the NHS, schools and councils will not be included.
In the other big headliners, all state pupils in reception and years one and two will get free school meals from September, saving parents around £400 a year per child.
The personal allowance - cash workers can earn without paying any tax - will rise from £9,440 to £10,000 in April, and the Government will also directly fund 20,000 more apprenticeships.
Mr Osborne called it “a serious plan for a grown up country”, and insisted his “plan is working”.
But Councillor Joy Squires, Worcester’s Labour parliamentary candidate, said: “After three-and-a-half years of David Cameron and George Osborne working people are worse off.
"Prices are still rising faster than wages meaning the cost of living squeeze on families continues and there is still no recovery for millions."
West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin called it an "early Christmas statement" for the country.
"We are only able to help hardworking people because we have taken difficult decisions to control spending.
"We are building a responsible recovery and our plan is working, but we need to keep going."
Mid-Worcestershire MP Peter Luff called it a "strong package" that would boost the economy.
WHAT ELSE DID THE CHANCELLOR SAY?
The Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast for growth in 2013 has been upgraded from 0.6 per cent to 1.4 per cent, and for 2014 it has been upgraded from 1.8 per cent to 2.4 per cent.
The Government will also borrow £111 billion this year, £9 billion less than predicted back in March.
Employers national insurance contributions for under 21s will be scrapped.
An extra 30,000 student places will be funded next year, helping universities looking to increase pupil numbers.
Job seekers aged 18 to 21 will be required to start a traineeship, work experience or community work after six months or lose their benefits.
Unemployed people of the same age will have to accept training in Maths and English if they do not already have basic level two qualifications.
A total gap on welfare spending will be introduced in 2015, with the precise figure due to decided upon by the spring.
* See your Worcester News tomorrow for more analysis, including what is being done to help retailers and small businesses.
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