On 6 April, something very unusual will happen to Scotland. While the whole of the UK will see tax levels adjust with the new tax year, Scotland is going to break away and introduce an extra two bands of income tax.
The tax-free personal allowance will stay the same but then there’s going to be a starter rate of 19 per cent for earnings above that and up to £13,850. After that it’s the standard basic rate of 20 per cent up to £24,000 but then there’s an extra percentage point on earnings up to £44,273.
And, just in case you haven’t had enough of the numbers, the rate then rises to 41 per cent and 46 per cent on earnings over £150,000.
That means that, in Scotland, if you earn less than £33,000 you will almost certainly pay less tax north of the border than you would in the rest of the UK.
Scottish finance minister Derek Mackay says that 70 per cent of taxpayers will pay less tax as a result of the changes. It certainly might make people living near the border thoughtful about where they go next.
But where else in the UK might your fortunes improve?
Best countryside home
It’s easy for city-dwellers to assume the best quality of life is to be found in pricey urban areas but there are many attractive and affordable areas in the countryside… particularly if you don’t mind a stretch of water between you and the mainland.
The recent Halifax 2018 Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey has found that the Orkney Islands top the charts for the best rural place to live, for the second year in a row.
Employment there is at 87 per cent compared with the British average of just over 75 per cent.
Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax, said: “With strong education and employment levels, low crime rates and residents loving life, not to mention breathtaking wide open spaces, the Orkney Islands have retained the crown of Britain’s best rural place to live.
“The winning formula for quality of life in the countryside seems to consistently include high employment levels and top scores on wellbeing, along with low school class sizes and high average-spend per pupil – more than twice the national average.”
If the size of your house is important to your quality of life, however, Orkney might not be right for you. It’s homes have an average of no more than 4.6 habitable rooms, compared with a British average of 5.4.
If you want large homes then Uttlesford in Essex and Rutland both have an average of 6.4 habitable rooms, a whole room more than the average.
Most affordable homes
If you’re one of the many aspiring first-time buyers struggling to get a foothold on the housing ladder then where you live can play a significant role in whether you realise your homeowner dreams.
Last year, research from Halifax showed that the average first-time buyer house price had reached £208,000, the highest on record.
However, in London that was closer to £410,000. Stirling in Scotland was the most affordable for first-time buyers with an average property price of £136,181 – less than three-times the local average earnings.
In fact, seven out of 10 of the most affordable places to buy a first home were in Scotland. In England, Copeland in the north-west was the most affordable with average house prices just 3.2 times average local annual earnings.
That’s a far cry from Brent in London where average house prices are 12.5 times average local earnings.
Best quality of life
If you have enough cash to buy wherever you want then you can just chase quality of life. Hart in Hampshire was recently named the best place to live in Britain, scoring high for health, life expectancy, employment, good weather and low crime.
Hart has actually come top of the Halifax Quality of Life Survey for five of the last six years. But of course that comes with a hefty price tag; the average property for sale in Hart is almost nine-times the average local income.
Longest life expectancy
What price can you put on a longer life? Research published earlier this year by the Office for National Statistics looked at the areas where children born between 2009 and 2013 can expect the longest typical life expectancy.
Of course there are a number of factors playing into that figure rather than straightforward geography, but it’s certainly a good indicator of good local health resources and lifestyle opportunities.
The latest figures show that baby boys born between 2012 and 2014 have the longest average life in Kensington and Chelsea at 83 years, compared with just 74 in Blackpool.
Baby girls born in Chiltern have the longest life expectancy at well over 86 years, compared with just under 80 in Middlesbrough.
More generally, life expectancy is increasing faster in England than Wales, although it’s increasing gradually in all areas.
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