By Kenneth Pritchard
In a bid to bring the youth vote back to the Conservative Party, Philip Hammond set out a raft of policies aimed at easing the cost of living of those who, in the last election, overwhelmingly voted for Labour. This sudden push for the youth vote came off the back of a YouGov poll, showing the Conservative voting intention of those aged between 18-30 had collapsed since the election and swung almost entirely to Labour. The analysis of the poll for Redbox showed the most significant collapse in the 25-30 year-olds, a remarkable 23 per cent loss, swinging directly into Jeremy Corbyn’s hands.
In a Budget filled with downgrades, poor projections and dad jokes aplenty, there was some hope aimed at bringing the millennial votes back on side through measures to reduce the cost of living. The headline-grabbing announcement of a 26-30 railcard is sure to be a popular among those who are no longer eligible for the 18-25 equivalent. The Chancellor confirmed that he was working with industry to agree the terms of the new railcard with a view to launch the scheme in spring 2018. Whether this will materialise into an increase in youth voters remains to be seen. Some commentators have suggested this is a poor solution to a bigger cost of living problems that young people are facing across the country.
More enticingly, Hammond’s biggest Budget Announcement sought to fix the promises made by previous Governments: building more homes. The Chancellor admitted that the public had been let down by previous Government commitments to fix the housing market. He noted that since 2003-4, and despite 320,000 people taking up Help to Buy schemes, the home ownership numbers for young people had dropped by 20 per cent. By way of rectifying this, he announced a £44bn package over 5 years to build on average over 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s.
Hammond reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to getting young people on the housing ladder. In a surprise Announcement, unusual for Hammond, he set out to immediately raise the stamp duty threshold for first-time buyers, from £125,000 to £300,000. Further, in recognition of property prices in urban areas such as London, the Chancellor set out that first-time buyers purchasing property up to £500,000 would only pay stamp duty above the new threshold. This has effectively exempted over 80 per cent of first-time buyers from paying tax when buying a property. Hammond preferred this measure over a stamp duty holiday period, noting that a holiday would only favour those who were already able to purchase a property.
However, the question remains: is it enough to bring young voters back to the Conservatives? Reactions to the Chancellor’s policies aimed at the millennial vote have largely not welcomed the Announcements, ridiculing the small impact on day-to-day savings. Hugo Rifkind from The Times has suggested this will only amount to £20 per month for those buying a £300,0000-property with a £50,000 deposit. Somewhat problematically, the Office for Budget Responsibility’s analysis of the policy has stated that increasing the threshold for first-time buyers will benefit those who already own a property, not first-time buyers themselves. Hammond’s attempt to please millennials seems feeble and blocking the increasing departure of under-30s from supporting the Conservatives seems far more difficult than he might have imagined.