Boost for would-be Lancashire home buyers and business

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First-time buyers and small business owners in Lancashire were given a huge boost as Philip Hammond outlined his Budget.

The Chancellor abolished stamp duty for first-time buyers on properties up to £300,000.

And he kept the VAT threshold at £85,000, despite speculation he may lower it, which would have put a major burden on small business owners.

The stamp duty measure will also apply on the first £300,000 of a purchase in high-price areas, meaning 95 per cent of first-time buyers will see at least a cut in the amount of stamp duty, with 80 per cent paying none at all.

Sarah Barnes, head of the Residential Property team at Lancashire-based Napthens solicitors, said: “The abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers purchasing properties up to £300,000 is to be welcomed.

“According to the UK House Price Index for May 2017, the average property value in the UK was £220,713, so this will definitely generate some movement from the bottom up. The change will assist some downsizers as well.

“However, this change will only have a limited effect and does not provide assistance for existing homeowners who are aspiring to move further up the ladder. Those individuals still have to pay Stamp Duty at the current rates.”

Tony Medcalf, head of tax at Lancashire-based MHA Moore and Smalley, said: “Without doubt the biggest surprise in this budget is the abolition of stamp duty on house purchases up to £300,000 for first-time buyers, which will help many young people in the North West straight away and could provide a big economic boost.”

Kris Brewster, Skipton building society’s head of products, said: “We welcome any move that supports and strengthens the UK housing market.

“For too long, young people are being priced out of buying their own home. Many more simply have a lack of choice and availability of affordable housing in their area.”

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber, said: “Businesses will welcome some of the Chancellor’s announcements including the ramping up of infrastructure investment in the North, extra funds to future-proof the railway network, an extension of R&D tax credits, and freezing the VAT threshold in the near term.

“Despite the inclusion of a number of announcements that will support business communities in the short term, more will still need to be done over the coming months to lay the groundwork for a successful Brexit transition.

Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses national chairman, said: “It was good to see the Chancellor’s speech acknowledge our concerns about the VAT threshold.

“Dragging thousands of more small firms into the hugely complex VAT regime would have caused a significant drag on output at an already challenging time for businesses.

“Businesses will be relieved that the VAT-registration levels have remained the same and residents in Lancashire will hope to benefit from support to increase house-building and extra money for the NHS.”

Preston MP Mark Hendrick said the budget was “a bit of a non-entity”.

He said the stamp duty decision was welcome, but would probably lead to asking prices going up.

Mr Hendrick said: “The forecasts for growth are ridiculously low. Brexit has to be the cause of a lot of this.”