Gazette & Herald Column: Budget delivers on pledges and does more for families

This week we were treated to a rare trick: an Autumn Budget delivered on a Monday – the first time since 1962! We were certainly given some early Halloween treats, as the hard work of the British people, and the careful fiscal management of the Conservative-led economic recovery since 2010, means that austerity is coming to an end. Overall, investment in public services will increase in real terms (above inflation) over the next five years, and public spending will increase by 1.2% in real terms each year. I thought I would set out just a few examples of how this money will support our public services and put more money into people’s pockets.

The NHS cash settlement which we announced in June has now been fully funded, meaning £20.5 billion more in real terms by 2023-24, which will ensure that we can continue delivering world class healthcare, free at the point of use. Importantly, there will also be £2 billion more per year spent on mental health, to help achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical health services.

Our Armed Forces have also received a well-earned financial boost, with £1 billion announced across this year and next – meaning the Defence budget is growing at an even faster rate than what we committed to in our Manifesto, and will increase by at least 0.5% above inflation in every year of this Parliament.

There was £1 billion of support for Councils to address local issues, including £650 million for social care, £420 million for potholes, and supporting our local high streets by cutting business rates by a third for two years for retailers with a rateable value under £51,000 – saving up to 90% of all shops up to £8,000 each year. I am also delighted that the Government has pledged a further £200 million to pilot new approaches to rollout fibre broadband in rural areas, which I know will be welcomed across parts of the Constituency who are still without fibre.

There were also measures to help put more money into people’s pockets, with an additional £1.7 billion per year to benefit working families on Universal Credit, and raising both the Personal Allowance and the Higher Rate Threshold - which means that nearly one million fewer people will pay the higher rate of income tax. Some other quick hits on how we’re helping put more money in people’s pockets: the National Living Wage will increase by nearly 5%, we are freezing fuel duty for the ninth year, and we are freezing beer, cider and spirits duty for another year – supporting the patrons of our important local pubs!