Last week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered the Budget. We are clearly in very difficult and unprecedented times. It is a therefore a huge challenge for any Government, of any political persuasion, to decide exactly how to deal with the economy. Having said that, there were a number of positive announcements that will benefit both individuals and businesses across Teignbridge.
Business rates have always been the biggest issue that local businesses raise with me; especially over the last 18 months. Fundamentally, business rates need proper reform, and this should be a priority for the Treasury. Too many Governments have consulted and too few have actually acted, but I am pleased with the creativity that has been demonstrated, at least for the short term. Therefore the 50% business rate cut for leisure, tourism and hospitality for the tax year 2022-23 is extremely welcome and will be a considerable help to a number of local businesses.
I am pleased that this Budget prioritises helping working families and vulnerable households with the cost of living, including through a significant tax cut for low-income families by reducing the Universal Credit taper rate from 63 per cent to 55 per cent, a 6.6 per cent increase in the National Living Wage to £9.50 an hour – giving a £1,000 pay rise to 2 million of the lowest paid – lifting pay restraints for public sector workers and a freeze in fuel duty for the twelfth consecutive year.
I very much welcome the introduction of a new Small Producer Relief so that smaller producers are incentivised to grow larger as well as the cutting of the price of English sparkling wine and prosecco; a big help to local producers.
Likewise, it is fantastic to see a doubling of creative industries tax reliefs for theatres, orchestras, museums and galleries; something which I hope our wonderful cultural institutions are able to take advantage of.
It is good that there is £150 billion more, before 2024, for the public services that have served us so well during the pandemic, but local government has borne much of the brunt. The £1.6 billion is very welcome, but the Government must ensure that it is given flexibly, so that local authorities can use it in the way that best meets local need rather than simply being told that it must be spent a certain way by Westminster.
Education and life chances are a key part of being able to build back our communities and productivity, post-Covid, therefore it is brilliant to see an increase in per-pupil funding and a renewed commitment to life-long learning. I welcome the news of more T-levels, more traineeships and more apprenticeships, but we also need more degree-level apprenticeships. Similarly, Covid catch-up funding is great, but schools need greater flexibility to spend the money to suit their specific pupil needs, rather than a rigid set of criteria.
On taxation, the key for me is that to the extent that we raise taxes, there must be a clear plan of action. I do not believe in money for money’s sake, which is why when the Government brought forward a plan to increase national insurance, I did not support it. It is not that I think that the health service and social care do not need the money; they absolutely do, but I want to see a specific plan, particularly for social care. I do not believe that social care can wait three years for an injection of cash, although I am pleased that this Budget includes a contribution in that direction.
Overall, this Budget was a positive one for Teignbridge. As ever, I remain committed to working with the Government, Devon County Council, Teignbridge District Council and the community, in order to increase productivity and improve the quality of life across Teignbridge.
My full speech in the Budget debate can be watched here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/62851c82-0837-47ca-9195-70b5553ee…
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