Good things in the Budget:
(1) Further help for businesses affected by the rates revaluation, especially pubs, 90 per cent of which will see a £1,000 discount on their bill this year. Local authorities will receive a further £300 million to target individual hard cases in their areas.
(2) Further cuts in Corporation Tax, which helps businesses to remain competitive. It was 28 per cent in 2009 - now it’s 20 per cent, and it will fall to 17 per cent by 2020.
(3) Further help for social care, with additional funding of £2 billion in England over the next three years.
(4) Further tax reductions as the personal allowance rises again, for the seventh year in a row, benefitting 29 million people and meaning a typical basic rate taxpayer will pay a full £1,000 less income tax than in 2010. The higher rate threshold will also rise to £45,000,.
(5) New, ambitious post-16 education reforms, with funding to increase the number of training hours for 16-19 year old further education students by over 50 per cent, and a high-quality work placement for every student.
(6) The economic climate is good - real wages have grown for 27 straight months, unemployment is at an 11 year low and the employment rate is at a new all-time high. The growth forecast for this year has been revised up.
But the less good news:
(1) The growth forecasts for future years have been revised down, with Brexit uncertainty.
(2) Britain now has nearly £1.7 trillion of debt. Each year, we are spending £50 billion on debt interest – more than we spend on defence and policing combined. The deficit is forecast to fall to the lowest level in over two decades by the end of this Parliament, and debt as a proportion of national income is forecast to begin falling next year, the first fall for over fifteen years. But the country is still spending more than it is earning, so there is no ‘pot of gold’ to increase public spending as many urge, or to cut taxes. Hence …
(3) The increases in national insurance for the self employed are justifiable to put them on an equal footing with those who are employed. That may be fair, but it’s still a regrettable tax rise.
(4) There is more money for free schools, but we need the new schools funding formula to ensure that West Sussex schools are funded fairly. I have important meetings about this issue next week.