Chancellor George Osborne has unveiled plans for three million apprentices and handed local councils the power to cut business rates.

He outlined the plans in his Autumn Statement and declared: “This is a big Spending Review by a government that does big things. It’s a long-term economic plan for our country’s future.”

He added that, since the Summer Budget, new economic data had been published which confirmed that, since 2010, no economy in the G7 had grown faster than Britain. “We’ve grown almost three times faster than Japan, twice as fast as France, faster than Germany and at the same rate as the United States,” added Osborne.

He said the economy would grow by 2.4% this year and that growth was then revised up from the Budget forecast in the next two years, to 2.4% in 2016 and 2.5% in 2017.

Here are just a few of the measures announced today:

    • Business rates – As set out last month, Osborne confirmed uniform business rates would be abolished. Local councils will have the power to cut business rates to make their areas more attractive to business and will also keep all the revenue accrued from the rates. Elected mayors will be able to raise rates, provided the proceeds are used to fund specific infrastructure projects supported by the local business community.
    • Apprenticeships – Osborne said he wanted to see three million apprentices by 2020 and said the government would be spending twice as much on apprenticeships from when they came into office by 2020. A new apprenticeship levy from April 2017 will be set at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s paybill, but employers will receive a £15,000 allowance to offset against a levy. This will mean 98% of employers, and all businesses with paybills of less than £3m, will pay no levy at all.
    • Transport – Although the Department of Transport operational budget will be slashed by 37%, transport capital spending will rise 50% to £61bn. This will fund projects across the country, including the largest road investment programme since the 1970s, HS2, the electrification of various railways such as the Trans-Pennine and the Transport for the North programme. London will receive £11bn to invest in its transport infrastructure.
    • Tax and cash support – As already announced, Corporation Tax will be reduced to 18%. 600,000 small businesses will receive help by the extension of the small businesses rate relief scheme for another year, while cash support given through Innovate UK will be protected by offering £165m in loans instead of grants. By the end of the decade, all individuals and small businesses will have their own digital tax account in order to manage their tax online.
  • Environment – Defra’s day-to-day budget will fall 15%, although funding for national parks and forests will be protected.

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