The Budget and UK Housing
David Boyd, Managing Director, PAD4U Estate and Letting Agents Manchester writes:
The chancellor didn't have much up his sleeves this time around, certainly not any money, so the country's expectations were not sky high. However, the budget had been touted as a budget for growth, and there was certainly interest to see how radical the chancellor would be. The Markets were also watching closely for any signs that the austerity measures, which are now just beginning to bite, being relaxed, such signs would no doubt be met with markets taking fright. After all our deficit still puts us close to the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece Spain).
The Markets were quickly calmed by the fact the budget was virtually cost neutral. But this didn't leave the chancellor with too many levers for growth. Given this, overall his budget was a success in my opinion, but there was little if anything to get the housing market back on track.
The reduction in corporation tax and investment in redevelopment zones for businesses are two simple but effective mechanisms to get businesses growing and investing again and this is welcome. The fact the banks won't benefit from this reduction was politically smart. However, the windfall tax on North Sea oil is counter-productive in a time when oil is expensive and becoming more difficult to source given conflicts across the globe, the last thing the chancellor wants is to thwart growth in North Sea oil exploration. Statoil, and Valiant Petroleum have already mothballed developments in the North Sea, I hope this is merely bravado on their part and that development and exploration of North Sea oil will continue, if not, this will be a clanger for the chancellor. Especially given the penny saving on fuel is unlikely to be seen in the forecourts I suspect.
In regards to the Housing Market, I hoped for a shake up of the stamp duty tax system, which is outdated and could have been an excellent lever to get the Market moving again. Instead we got a token gesture for the builders providing loans to assist buyers with deposits only with new build purchases. This really is a band-aid, and I would have liked to see more pressure on the banks to get sensible rates and deposits for mortgages - not trying to patch over the problem. How is it justified to have rates as high as six of seven percent when the BoE base rate is at 0.05% with deposits of 5-10%! This needs to be looked into thoroughly and there needs to be a mechanism whereby when the banks/markets are over/under pricing risk the BoE/Govement have levers to liquidate the market, other than pumping money into those very same institutions that are not working.
Ultimately the real levers for growth are not directly in the chancellors control, it is low, stable interest rates that will bring confidence back to the market. But how long can Mervyn King keep his nerve? Inflation is predicted to hit 5.5% before coming down, the temptation to increase interest rates will be hard for Mervyn King to resist, but resist he must until growth returns to the economy.