NATIONAL insurance cuts and a rise in the minimum wage headlined the UK Chancellor’s Autumn Statement that was panned as a “list of short-term pilot programmes, pet projects and more austerity” by the Welsh Government’s finance minister.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announce on Wednesday, 22 November a National Insurance tax cut from 12 per cent to 10 per cent for 27 million working people from January, alongside abolishing an entire class of NICs and cutting the rate of the NICs top rate from nine per cent to eight per cent for self-employed people.

Mr Hunt confirmed that the National Living Wage will also increase by nearly 10 per cent to £11.44 an hour from April 2024.

The Chancellor also announced that the government will honour its commitment to the triple lock in full, with the state pension to increase by 8.5 per cent in April.

Controversial plans were also included in the Statement to create a tougher regime for those out of work to find jobs.

Finance minister Rebecca Evans said: “The high-tax, low-spending Chancellor has not provided the life-line public services in Wales urgently need. Reassurances on inflation and another tax reshuffle won’t maintain our schools and hospitals.

“Our budget in 2024-25 is now £3 billion lower in than it would have been if it had grown in line with the with the economy since 2010.”

“The Chancellor has failed to recognise the increasing pressures on public services both here in Wales and across the UK, which means there will be more incredibly difficult decisions ahead.

“The NHS and local authorities are facing acute challenges around social care, education, and homelessness.

“The continuing pressures on their budgets will have a significant impact on the future sustainability of our schools, hospitals and other vital public services.

“The cut in National Insurance will go unnoticed by most taxpayers as income tax thresholds remain frozen, dragging thousands of people into paying more tax – a stealth tax rise.

Meanwhile, the UK Government is presiding over a disaster for public services, as the NI cut drains billions away from the NHS, schools, and social care.

“For all the Chancellor’s talk of cutting taxes, the UK’s tax take is on course to reach a post-war high.

“There is very little in this statement for Wales.

“We will be carefully analysing the detail of the announcements as we continue to prepare for our draft Budget.

“The Autumn Statement will make a difficult process even harder, as it does nothing to ease the immense pressure on our budget and on public services in Wales.”

Welsh Conservative shadow finance minister Peter Fox MS said: “The Conservative Chancellor delivered good news during his Autumn Statement.”