Last Wednesday George Osborne presented his 2015 Budget to the House of Commons. He maintained that the British economy was continuing to grow and create jobs, with living standards on the rise and the deficit down by more than a half. He promised the Budget would take Britain ‘one big step on the road from austerity to prosperity’. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, however, has branded the Budget ‘empty’ and claimed Osborne would be forced to put up VAT or cut NHS services to ensure sums add up. So what does Osborne’s 2015 budget really mean for young people?

Education

The Budget promises some changes in particular to the funding for postgraduate researchers. It proposes a package of measures to broaden and strengthen support and a review into government funding of postgraduate research. Notably the Budget proposes the introduction of income-contingent loans of up to £25,000 for UK students studying for PhDs and research-based master’s degrees, in addition to existing funding. Osborne also promises to remove the cap on university student numbers for 2015-16. Since controls were lifted in 2014-15, an extra 10,000 students have taken up places.

Employment

The budget is optimistic in its estimates for unemployment, projecting a fall from 5.7 per cent to 5.3 per cent by the end of 2015. Unemployment has already fallen 2 percentage points from what the Coalition inherited, when unemployment was at 8 per cent. Additionally, the introduction of an Apprenticeship Voucher will put employers in control of how government funding is spent, with the scheme being developed and tested with employers and providers immediately, before being fully implemented from 2017. It also promises a rise in the minimum wage to £6.70 in October and £8 by the end of the decade.

Health

David Cameron has pledged to safeguard the health budget but Labour has claimed that cuts at the pace of Osborne’s proposal will result in reduced health spending of £7 billion affecting other public services such as the police, defence and social care. Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, has accused the Tories of being ‘silent on the NHS’ and ‘desperate not to talk about it during the election campaign’. Osborne, however, claims, ‘because savings have been driven by efficiency and reform, the quality of public services has not gone down – it’s gone up. Satisfaction with the NHS is rising year-on-year’. Furthermore, he announced £2 billion of additional funding for frontline NHS services in 2015-16. The Budget also places special emphasis on mental health and claims to be ‘committed to parity of esteem between physical and mental health‘. From April 2015 new access and waiting times standards will be introduced for key mental health services and they will get £1.25 billion in extra funding. This has been a key issue in particular for students and young people who have complained of long waits and inadequate support for mental health issues at university.

Savings

The Budget proposes special measures to help young savers. The first £1,000 of interest on savings income will be tax-free for basic rate taxpayers and there will be a £500 allowance for 40p tax ratepayers. The ‘Help to Buy’ scheme will also help first-time homebuyers put money aside for a deposit, who will have their savings topped-up by the government by £50 for every £200 saved, up to the value of £3,000. These measures are due to come into effect in autumn.

Tax

The personal tax-free allowance is set to rise to £10,800 next year and £11,000 the year after, resulting in a tax cut for 27 million people. Osborne eventually wants to raise the tax-free allowance to £12,500. Businesses are also to be granted tax cuts with Corporation tax to be cut 20 per cent from next year. Savings will be made by closing tax loopholes, which is hoped to raise £3.1 billion.