Autumn Statement: On the streets of ultra-marginal Atherstone, the new stamp duty could be a vote-winner

Chancellor's flagship economic policy could swing crucial votes from Ukip next May

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Indy Politics

Within minutes of Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement in his Autumn Statement that a stamp duty revolution will come into effect from midnight tonight, Chris Tremlett bounced out of his office on Atherstone high street to give the good news to customers.

“I just got the call from my manager,” said the Branch Valuer at Pointon’s estate agent, as he taped A4 sheets of paper to his shop explaining the good news. “This is exciting. I’ve just been on the Government’s website to see what exactly the changes mean to everyone.”

Those changes, from sudden jumps in stamp duty to a more incremental system, should now mean that 98 per cent of buyers will pay less tax on new homes - with only those spending more than £937,000 facing a tax hike. It is a move designed to squash the Labour Party’s mansion tax policy and, judging by the reaction today in this ultra-marginal constituency in North Warwickshire, it is a vote winner.

“There has always been a lot of reservation from customers looking at buying homes around the £250,000 to £275,000 bracket but this move will do away with that overnight,” said Chris. “It means we can market the homes at the value they are supposed to be. It’s good for business and the buyer.”

 

First time buyer Ashley Haynes, 27, will certainly benefit. The co-owner of Bates Butchers currently lives with his parents in nearby Tamworth and is looking for a property in the same area with his partner for around £140,000. Under the old system he would have paid £1,400 in stamp duty but now he will only pay £300 for a home at that price.

“Help for first-time buyers is a key policy for me when it comes to who to vote for next May,” he said. “Small business tax breaks is another, anything that can directly help us really. I voted Conservative in 2010 but I could change to Ukip.”

The offer of lower taxes still might not be enough to stop the lure of Nigel Farage’s party, with many shoppers on Atherstone High Street displaying similar feelings. Labour’s former Solicitor General and Health Minister Mike O’Brien held the seat from 1992 and 2010, when Tory Dan Byles won with a majority of just 54 votes. The seat is at the top of Labour’s 106-target list for next May, yet they are unlikely to win - disillusionment with Ed Miliband’s party is abundant.

“They’re just out of touch with the working class,” said Craig Futrill, 45, who runs the Country Veg store with partner Jayne Warnes. “Business rates have had a big effect here and Tamworth. I’d consider voting Ukip now - immigration is definitely a priority for me.”

Toni Timmins, 38, and retired neighbour Mary Peach, 70, were also of the "anyone but Labour" opinion.

“That’s down to Tony Blair and the things he did,” said Mary. “My husband and I voted Ukip in the European elections and we’re going to vote for them again in May. This country’s full. It’s time to draw up the bridge.”

Over in Costa coffee, reading the Independent, IT consultant Dr Mano Cheema warned against being taken in by Ukip. “Behind the thinly veiled façade is an overtly racist and jingoistic attitude. I can see why they are popular but scratch below the surface and you will see what they are really like.”

Dr Cheema always voted Labour but did not bother to cast a vote in 2010. “All the parties have all become too similar. If one made a real effort to support science and engineering in this country then I might vote again.”

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