By the time you read this, Parliament will be approaching recess and the summer break. It has been a particularly busy year so far for me in that it started with work for the March Budget, after which the General Election campaign was in full flow. Four days after the General Election, I was back in the Treasury working on the summer Budget, delivered on 8 July.
There were many measures within the Budget but there was one, in particular, which will be helpful to many people in South West Hertfordshire – the increase in the inheritance tax threshold.
The current threshold is £325,000 but a surviving spouse can make use an ‘unused nil rate band’ meaning that, in effect, £650,000 can be passed down tax-free. The Budget announced an additional allowance of £175,000 for a home which, again, can be transferred to a surviving spouse. The effect of this is that a married couple can pass down a home worth £1m without paying inheritance tax.
Given where house prices are in our part of the world at the moment – and where they are likely to go in the years ahead – this should stop inheritance tax hitting relatively modest properties.
On the subject of the economy, the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership held a conference a couple of days after the Budget to discuss the issues facing the West Hertfordshire economy. We are seeing strong job growth and some flourishing businesses, particularly in the creative sector. But we are also seeing pressure on our infrastructure and high housing costs.
One theme that came across strongly was the need to strengthen our transport infrastructure so the Croxley Rail Link and the possible link up between the West Coast Mainline and Crossrail were very welcome.
As always, it is helpful to get an understanding that, when it comes to trying to ensure a strong economy, both local and national policies matter.