Autumn Statement

First the good news in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.  His focus on improving infrastructure and productivity is absolutely right.

And in our rural area, cancelling the fuel duty rise that is scheduled for April - keeping it frozen for the seventh consecutive year - is especially welcome.

The Government’s action on fuel duty will save the average car driver £130 a year and the average van driver £350 since 2010.

Employment is at a record high, and unemployment is at an 11 year low.  Steady tax reductions to help low and middle income earners will remain in place, and the National Living Wage is being increased.

Second, the news to come.  A housing White Paper will be published shortly.  I suspect this will include some challenging proposals on housing numbers, but also I hope some more welcome measures to deal with the local problem we face, which is of neighbourhood plans repeatedly being undermined.

I will shortly be tabling amendments to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill to address this problem.

The Transport Secretary will also set out further details about rail priorities over the coming weeks.  Clearly further investment is needed in our inadequate local rail infrastructure.

We already have a major roads programme in West Sussex, with the upgrades of the A27 which will go ahead.  Now we need to see a similar focus on the railways.

The Rail Minister has written to me about the current situation, and his letter can be found on my website.

Last, the bad news.  Economic growth is forecast to be lower because of Brexit. 

Uncertainty for firms leading to postponed or cancelled investment, higher prices as a result in the fall of the pound, and reduced growth in exports and imports are all cited as causes.

The OBR has therefore revised down forecast growth, revised up forecast inflation and revised up forecast unemployment.

Despite this deterioration, the economy is forecast to grow by 2.1 per cent in 2016 – predicted to be the fastest growing major advanced economy in the world.

The deficit will fall to 3.5 per cent of GDP this year and to 0.7 per cent in 2020-21 – the lowest in two decades.

And debt as a proportion of national income will begin falling in 2018-19 – the first fall since 2001-02.

Oh, and by the way, these aren’t my numbers: they are those of the Office for Budget Responsibility, which is by law independent of government.

Nick Herbert