Theresa May Defends National Insurance Tax Hike As 'Fair'

Hammond pledges extra £2bn to help tackle social care crisis

The Chancellor has announced that a £300m pot has been set aside for local councils to help small businesses face the hike in business rates.

Markets are concerned by signs that the 12 percent fall in the pound in trade-weighted terms over the past year - which has driven up inflation - and uncertainty over how Britain negotiates its exit from the European Union are finally having an impact on United Kingdom household spending.

"This measure will ensure that support for investors is more effectively targeted and that the total amount of income they can receive tax-free is fairer and more affordable, in light of increases to the tax-free personal allowance and the Individual Savings Accounts allowance (ISA)".

The Budget also includes £270 million for the maintenance of schools.

Mr Hammond had come under pressure before his Budget to provide extra money for social care and measures to ease the pressure on businesses facing rate rises.

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Britain's public finances are still expected to be in the red by the 2021/22 financial year-a slower pace of deficit reduction than Hammond's predecessor George Osborne planned a year ago, when he hoped to return the public finances to surplus by 2019/20.

While there was no actual change to business rates, the Chancellor did unveil some relief for those affected by the rise in business rates, in the form of a £435 million emergency package.

The Chancellor has now said he is "prepared to listen to backbenchers" on the controversial measure, and Downing Street has declined to rule out a review of the decision.

"This is a change that leaves lower paid self employed workers better off, it's accompanied by more rights and protections for self-employed workers and it reforms the system of national insurance to make it simpler to make it fairer and to make it more progressive".

But the Chancellor told ITV's Good Morning Britain that the Conservatives "dealt with this issue back in 2015 when we legislated for the tax locks that we talked about during the election campaign".

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With many of our customers already struggling to manage skyrocketing rents, there should have been more focus on business rates, as we should be looking at ways to help them thrive and succeed in this time of economic uncertainty, not penalise them further because of the geographic location of their business.

"This Budget takes forward our plan to prepare Britain for a brighter future", he said. But a new minimum excise duty is to be introduced on cigarettes based on a packed price of £7.35.

The Budget will also mean £350 million for the Scottish Government, £200 million for the Welsh Government and nearly £120 million for an incoming Northern Ireland Executive.

He said today's comments from Mr Hammond will go some way to calm these fears - notably among publicans and growing companies losing small business rate relief.

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