Austerity is coming to an end, but discipline will remain

This was the clear message which came across loud and clear in the Chancellor’s Budget yesterday. Philip Hammond announced wide ranging spending commitments totalling £30 billion by 2023 – 2024, heralding the end of a period of austerity, which has lasted 10 years. This was a Budget delivered by an upbeat Chancellor and included many of the priorities I have been campaigning for since I was elected to Parliament.

 

A Fairer Deal for the North

I was particularly pleased that he has increased the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) from £31 billion to £37 billion and is delivering the largest ever strategic roads investment package worth £28.8 billion from 2020-2025. This will, in part, fund more rail and road projects across the North. There was also up to £37 million to support the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail to connect cities across the North with faster, more frequent services and £13 million across the country to improve access to flood information, including an expansion to the flood warning system to an additional circa 1,300 at-risk properties in Yorkshire and Humber. There will be a refreshed Northern Powerhouse Strategy to be published next year, building on the success of the existing strategy in addressing barriers to productivity in the region.

He also set aside £770 million to boost transport in English regions by an increase in the Transforming Cities Fund (designed to improve productivity and spread prosperity outside of London). This will support further investment in public transport to boost connectivity and also £200 million for full fibre broadband roll out, which are also issues upon which I have campaigned hard. As I have said many times, increasing spending in infrastructure in the North is not only fair, but also key, to the success and growth of our regional economy.

I will be doing everything in my power to make sure that levels of investment in the North exceed past levels. Indeed, I played a central role in securing the signatures of 82 northern parliamentarians to a recent letter to the Chancellor calling for a doubling in investment levels over the next 30 years.

 

A Fairer Society

I have also been calling for more money for social care. So, I welcome the news that there will be £1 billion more for local authorities with £650 million for social care, and £84 million for children’s social care programmes over five years. The social care green paper is due out shortly and I will be working hard to make sure we get a long-term sustainable solution to adult social care.

This was a Budget for everyone. The Chancellor announced that there will be £1 billion more for mental health, £400 million for schools and he would be investing an additional £1.7 billion per year to benefit working families on Universal Credit and the work allowance – the amount families can earn before losing benefits – will be increased by £1,000, worth £630 per year to those households

There’s good news, too, for hardworking people across the country who will now be able to keep more of what they earn. The Personal Allowance will be increased to £12,500 and the Higher Rate Threshold to £50,000 one year early, saving a typical basic rate taxpayer £130 compared to 2018-19 and £1,205 compared to 2010-11, so nearly 1 million fewer people will pay the higher rate of income tax. There’s also an increase in the National Living Wage (of which I have been a strong advocate) by nearly 5 per cent, from £7.83 to £8.21.

I am a huge supporter of small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy and, of course of our fantastic market towns across Thirsk and Malton. So, I was delighted when the Chancellor in his speech recognised my work as co-Chair of the APPG for Fair Business Banking in the context of the expansion of the Financial Ombudsman Service. There is, however, much more to do in this area before justice and confidence is fully returned to the business banking relationship.

He is taking immediate action to support small enterprises by cutting business rates by a third for two years to help them compete with online outlets. Rates will be cut by a third for retailers with a rateable value under £51,000, saving up to 90 per cent of all shops up to £8,000 each year. It’s right and proper that, from 2020, large social media platforms, search engines and online marketplaces will pay 2 per cent on revenues linked to UK users so that they too pay their fair share of tax.

We all rely on the NHS and are grateful to the thousands of hardworking nurses, doctors and ancillary workers who make sure we are well looked after. The fact that Mr Hammond was able to confirm, in this Budget, that there will be a fully-funded the cash settlement for the NHS (as promised in June) equating to £20.5 billion more in real terms by 2023-24, and an average real growth rate in the NHS’s budget of 3.4 per cent a year will be welcome news to us all. 

There’s more good news as fuel duty was frozen for the ninth year, saving the average car driver a cumulative £1,000 by April 2019; beer, cider and spirits duty are also unchanged for another year, supporting patrons of the Great British pub and saving people 2p on a pint of beer and 30p on a bottle of Scotch or gin. Air Passenger Duty for short haul flights will remain at current levels. And for 26-30 year olds a railcard will be rolled out on a permanent basis, giving young people a third off their fares. 

All these brilliant measures, designed to create a fairer society and reward enterprise, are possible because of the good work that this Conservative Government and the hard-working British people have achieved, together, to get the economy going. There are more people in work than ever before - bringing in a huge boost to the Exchequer. Economic growth has been revised up from 1.3 per cent to 1.6 per cent; employment has been revised up with 800,000 more jobs in 2023 than previously forecast and wages are set to rise above inflation in each of the next five years.

It was a good, sound and encouraging Budget on the eve of a momentous change in the UK’s history and I am proud of this Government. As the Chancellor said, there is a clear dividing line in British politics today between a Conservative Government taking a balanced approach and getting debt down versus Mr. Corbyn and his team, whose version of ending austerity would be to raise taxes to the highest level in peacetime history and send debt soaring, taking us back to square one. 

We must never let that happen.