Before this week’s Budget, a number of friends, colleagues and constituents approached me to ask for my thoughts on what this week’s Budget would look like under the newish Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond. Would there be a change of economic policy? Would they rip up Conservative principles of financial responsibility and engage on a spending spree of UK taxpayer’s money?
Absolutely not. The Budget was a “steady as she goes” affair.
The Chancellor welcomed the further reduction of public borrowing to £58.3 billion, with the Conservatives having now reduced the public deficit by two thirds since 2010. This is despite Labour recklessly opposing nearly every cost cutting measure and still advocating £500 billion (half a trillion pounds!) of additional borrowing. That would be a disaster for our economy.
The benefit of this is that businesses continue to grow and investment continues to pour into the UK. Economic growth for the past year jumped from 1.4% growth to 2% growth with the UK economy being labelled as the second fastest growing economy in not just Europe but the entire G7, beating the US, Japan and France. We’ve found extra money for 16-19 year old skills funding and the much needed £2 billion boost for social care across England is hugely welcome and desperately needed and £220million for tackling congestion at road pinch points.
For those on the Living Wage, the national living wage will go up again to £7.50 – a £500 pay rise for a full time worker, in addition to the personal allowance increasing for the seventh year in a row to £11,500 – a tax cut for 29 million people.
With a growing economy, 650,000 additional people are now expected to be in employment by 2021, our NHS can continue to be well supported in additional tax revenues and many families will continue to move from welfare dependency to providing for their families in employment. In fact, the lowest paid saw their wages grow faster last year than in any year in the last 20 years - and Peterborough was one of the fast growth areas - and living standards grew at their fastest rate in 14 years.
The continued improvement of the public finances meant the Chancellor was able to put forward £100 million for funding additional GPs for A&E departments next winter; freeze fuel duty (which has remained at 57.95p per litre since the March 2011 Budget) and among many other measures, helped cut tax bills for our small local pubs.
Most importantly, it also once again demonstrates that the doomsayers of Brexit, who predicted economic oblivion for the UK, were completely wrong. This Budget demonstrates instead that confidence in the UK continues to grow as we seek our new place in the world and secure a global and internationally respected trade role.
As they said in the war, the message as we face historic Brexit challenges is simple: “Keep calm and carry on!”