OPINION: Budget demonstrates we want to support working families
- Credit: PA
A budget for a new age, delivering real benefits for British people: a budget for levelling up, supporting working families, and boosting the economy.
It was great to see a packed chamber to hear the unveiling of Rishi Sunak’s plans for taxpayers’ money in the budget announcement on Wednesday. It’s a budget which demonstrates economic credibility - whereas Labour’s uncosted and extravagant spending pledges lack any economic credibility at all.
The government has been open and honest about difficult spending decisions, particularly in the wake of a global pandemic. This is something Labour simply are not prepared to do. Despite the incredibly challenging conditions of the past year, the government’s strategy to revive economic growth has evidently paid dividends. Our economy is now predicted to grow 6.5% in 2021, which is 2.4% faster than was predicted in March.
I’m proud this Conservative government is supporting the issues that matter to hard-working families, by prioritising the cost of living. The taper rate for Universal Credit, which is the amount credits are reduced by when a person is in work, means an 8p per pound saving.
This government has made it clear that work pays. The raise in national minimum wage to £9.50 is a move to improve quality of life for those currently earning the least. The government has also continued the fuel duty freeze for a 12th year, to ensure the cost of living is as manageable as possible.
When I visited the Belstead Arms in Chantry, we spoke about the possibility of a cut to beer duties – so I’m really pleased to see that realised in the budget. Sunak’s boost to pubs is worth £100 million a year, and I’m looking forward to seeing Ipswich establishments benefit. As one of the 100 Conservative MPs who signed a letter to the chancellor to call for the cuts, and voted against the government on the 10pm curfew, it’s great to see UK hospitality welcoming the new measures.
The government is also radically simplifying alcohol duty – having left the EU, we are able to streamline the lumpy and confusing European regulations on alcohol tax into a fairer and more reasonable system.
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Unemployment is also much lower than expected. The furlough scheme, which was put together impressively rapidly, has prevented huge job losses. At the height of the pandemic, expected unemployment was as high as 12%. This week, the expected level of unemployment was revised to 5.2%, which is huge achievement.
Levelling up is an essential component of the government’s plan. In his speech, Sunak emphasised that “the power of opportunity... should be the birth right of every child in the UK”. Levelling up is a game-changing ethos for regions of the UK experiencing deprivation, relative lack of opportunity, and poor income levels - and it isn’t just about the North and the Midlands.
Government commitment to levelling up in our area has been demonstrated in the plans for Freeport East. The planned freeport, with three special tax zones in Felixstowe, Harwich, and Stowmarket, will bring a predicted 13,500 new employment opportunities to Ipswich, which conveniently lies between these hubs of manufacturing and economic activity.
The Net Zero commitments to new Nuclear and Hydrogen power reflect ongoing progress made in our region too – like the £1.7 billion of funding the government has set aside to support Sizewell C nuclear power station, just up the coast from Ipswich. The Freeport East Hydrogen Hub is another great example of our area’s contribution to national renewable power targets - and we have more than half the UK’s offshore wind capacity off our coast!
As well as the freeport, the government has previously pledged £25 million to the Town Deal fund. This pot of money is set to rejuvenate the high-streets, city centre, and resources. Ipswich has also been recognised as an ‘Opportunity Area’, one of just 12 in England selected by the Department for Education to receive extra funding to unlock the potential of currently disadvantaged students.
Ipswich is also officially ‘in need of levelling up’, and so I hope to see even more provisions from the government going forward to support the levelling up agenda in our area. At the heart of levelling up is the necessity to upskill the local workforce.
The government initiative to establish Institutes of Technology delivers on the upskilling agenda. An ongoing bid to form an Eastern Institute of Technology offers the unique opportunity to boost provision of quality technical education. I am writing to the Minister for Further and Higher Education to express my full support for the Eastern Institute of Technology.
If levelling up is going to be properly delivered for long term gain, we need to look at the funding of our core public services. As a vocal member of the education committee, I’m also pleased to see the government’s commitment to funding high quality parent programmes, prioritising a network of family hubs. The importance of early intervention cannot be understated, so supporting training and development for early years workers is an excellent move. Early intervention is particularly important in supporting families with children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
I am particularly interested to see the commitment to tripling investment for children with SEND, with 30,000 new school places for these students. This week I wrote to the Minister for Education, highlighting the current disparities in funding, which negatively affects Suffolk SEND provision: from figures I have seen on an academy chain with branches in London, Tower Hamlets, and in Suffolk, the London per-student funding for a mild to severe SEND student is as much as four times higher. As such, I sincerely hope that Suffolk SEND will stand to benefit from the pledged £2.6 billion increase in funding for this sector over the next 3 years.
Policing is another area in which Suffolk needs a fairer deal. I wrote to the Minister for Crime and Policing this week to highlight the issues Ipswich faces in terms of violent and anti-social behaviour. I also told the Minister about how the current funding formula negatively compares for Suffolk; the government funding per resident for Suffolk policing is just less than half of that allocated in London.
Supporting working families is the government’s priority – which is why the chancellor has announced a rise in the national minimum wage. Those who need it most will receive an extra £1,000 annually. This is a plan to help working families, and boost the UK economy in a fiscally responsible way.
In a period of recovery from an unanticipated and economically challenging pandemic, the government has prioritised a growing economy and levelling up regions of the UK with investment for infrastructure, innovation, upskilling local populations, and higher paid employment.