The Economy

The so-called ‘Autumn Statement' by the Chancellor of the Exchequer came this week in cold winter.  It was widely predicted that it would all be gloom, but in fact there was some good news.

First, growth is returning.   Yes, weaker than forecast, as a result of recession in the Eurozone, a lack of global confidence and commodity price inflation.

But the independent Office of Budget Responsibility predicts that next year the UK will grow faster than France or Germany.  We have lower unemployment than in the Eurozone or the United States.

Second, the annual deficit has fallen by a quarter in just two years and is forecast to go on falling each and every year of this Parliament.  So we are beginning to get on top of the problem of over-spending.

But for a time debt still accumulates.  It's a bit like a credit card - you first of all need to stop spending too much each month, but the interest keeps adding to your total debt until you can actually pay it down.

The Government's debt is still forecast to fall - but in 2016-17, one year later than the previous objective.

The third welcome piece of news was a huge investment of £5.5 billion in new roads, science, and free schools.  We must make the case for the A27 upgrade as part of this renewed focus on infrastructure.

The fourth item for cheer was help for businesses, with a further 1p cut in corporation tax to 21p - the lowest rate in the G7.  It was 28p just two and half years ago.

There was also help for small and medium sized businesses, with a two-year increase in the Annual Investment Allowance from £25,000 to £250,000.

The fifth announcement will have raised a particular cheer locally - cancellation of January's 3p fuel rise.  This was asked for by many of my constituents and will be a big help in rural areas like the South Downs.

Finally, the personal allowance was increased by a further £235. So in April next year the personal allowance will go up by £1,335 - the largest ever cash rise - and 24 million people will get a tax cut.

As the Chancellor said, it's a hard road but we are making progress.  And with help for businesses, motorists and working people, there was some Christmas cheer.

Christopher N Howarth