When Mr.Hammond took to his feet yesterday he knew that measures he would introduce would have to not just pacify the UK electorate, but also that he needed set out realistic plans for the country in times of slower growth and continued austerity.
There were no real surprises in regard to certain key issues, namely, housing – where the anticipated abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers purchasing properties up to £300,000 comes into force immediately.
There is £2.8bn available to the NHS, but no pay rises for nurses. He has set out intentions for infrastructure and IT projects and inflation increases to the personal allowance and higher rate income tax threshold to take effect in April 2018.
The issues of importance to small business centred firstly on VAT, where the expectation was for the chancellor to lower the VAT threshold for businesses but in the event his decision was to keep the threshold at £85,000 for the next two years.
A secondary issue, dear to the hearts of the growing private sector freelance self-employed sector was whether or not they would face immediate employment status checks by HMRC as were brought into force for their public sector colleagues in April this year.
Whilst there was no immediate decision on this issue the clear message was that the off-payroll private sector will face scrutiny and all parties will be consulted going forward. Observers say that the language used by government is now creating uncertainty and as a priority the government need to set out clear timescales for such consultation.
There is no doubt that the professional community who advise freelance workers in the private sector will already be rehearsing their arguments as will HMRC, but for now a window remains for proper discussions to hopefully tidy up matters surrounding IR35, the gig economy and the perceived unfairness that exists in the taxation of UK workers.