By Assistant Editor Connor Steel
CAROLINE Dinenage and Suella Braverman have both praised the unveiling of the 2021 Autumn Budget, which was outlined in the Chancellor’s annual statement made on Wednesday afternoon (October 27).
In a 90-minute presentation to a packed House of Commons, Rishi Sunak offered his financial proposals to Parliament which included policies and forecasts as Britain comes out of lockdown restrictions after Covid-19, with mixed reactions to the contents despite widespread praise for his performance.
Following the economic impact from the ongoing pandemic, voters were expecting a low spending and negative statement by Mr Sunak, with higher taxes and price rises to start paying back the huge UK debt. But instead the Budget was fairly positive with news that the economy is expected to return to pre-Covid levels by early 2022, alongside the announcement that unemployment and borrowing will fall rapidly with both ‘peaks’ passed in September 2021.
With this in mind the Chancellor announced a rise of 6 percent t0 the National Living Wage, meaning an increase to £9.50 per hour in a boost to the lowest pay. Mr Sunak also put the impetus on work by reducing the Universal Credit earnings taper by 8 percent, which means that claimants will retain more of their wages without any impact on benefits. In a boost for unemployed youngsters, the Kickstart scheme has also been extended with companies able to employ 18 to24-year-olds for six months with government funding the wages.
School and education facilities were also boosted by the Budget, with the Chancellor pledging an extra £4.7 billion by 2025 meaning an equivalent of £1,500 increase per pupil in cash as it returns to its 2010 rates. More funding of £2 billion has also been allocated to help the post-Covid recovery, including new programmes for parents and those needing to improve basic maths / English skills.
But despite this rise in funding, some education unions felt it wasn’t enough, with this spending having to include pay for teachers over the next five years amidst uncertainty of further Covid-19 impacts on the sector.
Further funding was given to the devolved administrations of the UK, alongside an increase in money to both Whitehall departments and the Levelling Up Fund outlined in the party manifesto of December 2019. A further £6 billion was awarded to help the NHS alongside tax rises announced back in September, while car sciences were given £5.9 billion a year and another £7 billion allocated to travel projects across major cities. There was also money to help housing developments, safe cladding projects and reducing rough sleeping / homelessness in all areas.
Businesses such as shops, restaurants, and gyms were the biggest winners of this Budget, the Chancellor announcing a temporary 50 percent cut in rates up to a maximum of £110,000. Mr Sunak also announced a cancellation to the planned annual increase for the second successive years, amounting to an overall tax cut for these businesses of £1.7 billion. This was welcomed by the hospitality sector, with others such as retail and leisure seeing rates reduced already during 2021 following the rates holiday in the pandemic.
In a boost for Fareham MP and Attorney General Suella Braverman, her colleague also allocated an extra £2.2 billion in funds to the justice system. This includes provisions to help clear backlogs caused by lockdowns, covering courts, prisons and probation / prevent services. Welcoming the overall Budget, Mrs Braverman hasn’t yet made any statement on her website or social media but has shared the positive tweets from Conservative HQ and her colleagues’ praise of the recovery package.
Her neighbour, Caroline Dinenage, joined in the outpouring of praise as she celebrated the fact that Gosport will benefit from most measures, particularly the road infrastructure project in the South East to develop highways and encourage faster commutes.
The Gosport MP said: “This Budget delivers a strong economy for people in Gosport, Lee-on-the-Solent, Stubbington and Hill Head. It strengthens public finances, helps working families, supports businesses, delivers stronger public services and drives economic growth.”
Not that the Budget was all positive for the Chancellor as opposition representatives slammed it for helping the rich and affecting the poorest in society, particularly in view of the cost of living rises and further tax increases expected next year. Further criticisms include the lack of growth in key areas, alongside favouritism towards the South with no big projects for the North despite transport developments being announced previously. But the biggest accusation aimed at government involved the seemingly favourable cuts benefitting high earners, including reduced bank taxes and reductions for frequent flyers away on business trips.
Labour has said that the average worker will lose up to £3,000 a year under the new measures and previous announcements combined, which included the cutting of the temporary Universal Credit uplift on October 6. The absent Sir Keir Starmer tweeted on behalf of his party, urging the g overnment to rethink key polices stating that “pressure needs to be taken off the working people of this country”.
In a further brief statement, immediately after Rishi Sunak’s presentation, the Federation of Small Businesses said that, “the Budget is not enough to meet ambition for a high growth, high productivity, high wage and low tax economy”. This was an argument that has been supported by many sectors, with political analysts all having their say on the impact of the Budget.
But nobody can argue that Mr Sunak’s performance wasn’t calm, confident and positive in a display that only boosts his reputation as a potential future leader, standing up to heckling and answering questions in-depth across the chamber after his biggest Budget to date. No Budget is going to please everybody and there is no perfect economic statement, particularly with the need post-pandemic to balance recovery with developmental growth. As always time will tell whether the Chancellor has got his priorities and policies right, with the finer details perhaps the key to success over the next 12 months. For now a debate and vote will be held in the coming weeks before it is likely to be implemented by an 80-seat Government majority.
The the full document is available for readers to explore on Budget 2021: documents – GOV.UK. (www.gov.uk).
Photograph by Sky News: Rishi Sunak with his famous red box as he leaves for the Commons