My Column from 02 November
This week, Parliament has been debating the Budget, which was unveiled on a Monday for the first time since 1962. Apparently, Chancellor Philip Hammond didn’t think it being on the same day as Halloween was the best idea!
Thankfully, there were not too many frights to come out of it. Better economic growth forecasts and a new estimate of how much tax we are all paying in meant the Chancellor had some financial room to play with. This isn’t the “end of austerity” but we are getting closer to the point where the government can responsibly increase public spending without risking our national economic recovery.
The big spending item was increased funding for our NHS, which had already been announced. It will receive an extra £84 billion over five years, a record increase.
However, it was some of the smaller and less expected announcements that pleased me most. There was £675 million fund for local councils to transform their high streets and a cut in business rates for most shops. Colne’s high street has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, Barnoldswick continues to do well, but Nelson and some of our other towns and villages continue to face serious challenges. Therefore I am pleased this additional support will be made available.
Having taken the Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman MP, to visit the excellent Pennine Community Credit Union (PCCU) only days before the Budget, I was also delighted to hear that a prize-based saving scheme for credit unions will be trialled to help raise awareness of community-based borrowing cooperatives.
In other announcements, beer duty and spirit duty was frozen again which is great for our pubs and there was extra money for Universal Credit, ensuring work pays. Indeed, for workers there was a series of good news. The income personal tax allowance will continue to rise. By April 2020, the first £12,500 people earn will be tax free – nearly double what it was in 2010.
The National Living Wage is also going up again this April to £8.21, way ahead of inflation and providing a £690 pay rise for full-time workers on low incomes. Again, this all about making sure being in work pays. Overall a good budget for Pendle.