Opinion: ‘Rishi delivered for Peterborough’

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Sunday, 7th March 2021, 5:00 am
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer had some good news that the economic recovery from the pandemic will be ‘swifter and more sustained’ than thought.

But he had even better news for Peterborough when he spoke about the new Levelling Up Fund.

Rishi Sunak didn’t have the easiest start as Chancellor. The pandemic hit just after he began at Number 11. By any measure, he’s done an outstanding job.

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Even before wednesday’s budget, Peterborough has benefited enormously from this Government.

We were already getting £16 million for a new Science and Technical University and Research Hub, which will bring more highly-paid jobs to our city.

The City Centre is getting £23 million from the Towns Fund to kickstart regeneration and renewal.

This is among the highest support anywhere in the country.

We have more police officers patrolling our streets in Bretton, Dogsthorpe, Ravensthorpe and beyond.

There was millions for the City Council to tackle COVID-19 and rough sleeping, while getting tough on fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour.

Yet being me, I am always asking for more because I know our potential.

The Chancellor gets my requests regularly - in person, through messages and by mail.

This paid off in wednesday’s budget.

We knew there would be a £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund to support regeneration, transport projects and culture. What we didn’t know was where it would be spent.

The big budget news for Peterborough is that we are at the very top of the bidding list in priority category 1.

I’m looking forward to working with the City Council to develop our bid. It’s another reason why Peterborough needs Conservative councillors elected in May, who understand these plans for the future. Our city’s success depends on it.

This really was a budget that put Peterborough first.

There are restart grants to help businesses reopen and get the economy moving.

The Chancellor extended the furlough scheme to the end of September, along with the £20-per-week top-up to Universal Credit. This will help protect local jobs and protect those out of work.

As we transition back to normal life, thanks to the UK’s game-changing vaccine programme, employers will start contributing again towards the cost of furloughed staff. This is gradual and fair.

There was also additional help for the self-employed, with access to grants is widened.

Around 600,000 self-employed people will benefit.

I lobbied the Chancellor to extend the exemption to business rates and be more generous about the timescales for settling their VAT balances with HM Revenue and Customs. It’s great news that he listened.

As I noted in my letter to him, these two initiatives will give local businesses the shot in the arm they so desperately need.

Fuel duty has been frozen for a record tenth year.

Thanks to successive Conservative chancellors, you save a fortune when you fill up. However, they aren’t the only pumps getting a tax break, because Rishi has frozen beer duty too.

I was already looking forward to raising several pints when lockdown ends.

Now I shall by raising the first to my colleague, the Chancellor. He delivered for Peterborough.