Belfast Telegraph

Hammond receives mixed response to Autumn Statement

Reaction to the Chancellor's first - and last - Autumn Statement has ranged from praise to anger that the Government was only "tinkering" with problems faced by workers.

One of the most popular measures was the ban on letting agent fees, which Citizens Advice estimated would save renters hundreds of pounds.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: "Millions of renters in England have felt the financial strain of unfair letting agent fees for far too long, so we're delighted with the Government's decision to ban them."

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: "Councils, the NHS, charities and care providers have been clear about the desperate need for the Chancellor to take action to tackle the funding crisis in social care. It is unacceptable that this has not been addressed."

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Philip Hammond has delivered a responsible, solid and focused package that will reassure both business and markets."

Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "It is pure hypocrisy for the Chancellor to talk about wanting to help struggling families but continue to hold down the wages of the Government's own workforce who have suffered years and years of pay cuts.

"We will be talking to other unions in the coming weeks about taking action together to bring the pay freeze to an end, so we can put money back in people's pockets and help revive our flagging economy."

Mike Cherry, chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "Our members are pleased with the confirmation of plans to remove £6.7 billion from the business rates system, and the decision to make rural rate relief fairer for small firms, but there will need to be stronger fiscal interventions to boost the economy next year, with the prospect of weaker longer-term growth looming."

The Fawcett Society said the statement was a "missed opportunity" for women and the economy, adding: "The Chancellor could and should have included investment in our childcare and social care infrastructure in his infrastructure spending plans."

Dr Carole Easton, chief executive of the Young Women's Trust, said: "The announcements may help families who are 'just about managing', but what about those who are just plain struggling?"

Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel, said: "Today's lack of any tangible announcements either on energy or business rates represent a blow for the steel sector. The crisis UK steel producers have faced in the last year highlighted the impact uncompetitive energy prices were having and we were looking to the Autumn Statement for a decisive response."

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: " We are disappointed that the social care funding gap has not been addressed. This is a humanitarian crisis that is only set to get worse.

"The British Red Cross has seen first-hand the devastating effects - people falling and not being found for days, people not being washed because there is no carer there to help them."

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "For all the talk, this was a rescue package for 'just managing' families that failed to turn up. That's hugely disappointing for those of us who felt that the Prime Minister was going to take robust action to help hard-up families."

Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI's director general, said: " These measures must now be translated into action. That means tarmac, tracks and telecoms being laid, and clear, deliverable timetables for major projects - only then will they act as a catalyst for investment, jobs and growth."

Len McCluskey, leader of Unite, said: "The Conservative party owes the UK people a huge apology. With debt set to soar, yet more promised targets missed and living standards still dropping, the truth is that Tory policies were a massive fraud."

Wales's Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said: " Although today's announcement doesn't go as far as we had hoped, this extra investment goes some way to restoring the cuts we have seen to our capital budget over recent years."

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children's Society, said: "There's been plenty of talk of helping the just-about-managing families - the Jams - but sadly the Chancellor's cake is half-baked.

"Unlike last year's Budget, he hasn't introduced major new cuts for low-income families, but that won't offer much comfort to millions for whom today's announcements will have a very soggy bottom.

"Of course the £600m provided to undo a proportion of cuts to Universal Credit will help, although the lowest-income working families receiving the benefit will gain the least. So will increases to the minimum wage. But these improvements are measly morsels next to the nearly £11bn of ongoing cuts announced last year which will cut support for struggling families in 2020.

"The rising cost of living will turn the four-year benefits freeze into a major income cut by 2020. "

Ashwin Kumar, chief economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: "2017 is going to be a tough year as wages will barely grow faster than prices.

"Whilst there will be modest gains for some people from today's Autumn Statement, for most people on below-average incomes, these will be dwarfed by previously announced cuts to benefits."