Yes, it’s been budget week and I was in the Chamber to support the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, keen to discover what announcements might benefit this area.
Given the underlying background of Brexit, the economy has remained buoyant with companies hiring at record levels, unemployment at a record four decade low and pay rising faster than inflation for the past five months. What is important is enabling people keep more of their hard earned money and there were a number of measures to do just this including raising the Personal Allowance to £12,500 - a year earlier than planned, which translates into an extra £130 year for basic rate tax payers. The business rate relief for small retailers with a rateable value of £51,000 or less (£900m of relief nationally) will benefit some of the many high street businesses under pressure in Taunton and Wellington. And I shall be encouraging both towns to apply to the £650m fund for projects to rejuvenate high streets. By the way do vote for your favourite shop in my Best of the High Street awards (www.rebeccapow.org.uk/great-british-high-street-awards-2018)
I’ve been working hard to get some extra funds for Somerset County Council. The Chancellor listened and I am pleased that through various funding streams more money will be forthcoming: £4m for potholes; £6m from the extra £650m grant for adult social care; some of the extra funding for children’s mental health will filter through; and there is the opportunity to apply to the £85m fund to transform children’s services; the extra £500m devoted to national Housing and Infrastructure is welcome and should mean more money come here to provide the right facilities as new housing goes up. The general focus on raising productivity was key in the budget with tools provided that should help the Local Enterprise Partnership to achieve its goal of dramatically raising productivity in the South West means more skills and jobs. There will also be £23 million invested for the West England Combined Authority, enabling them to further invest in their local transport priorities.
Funding for planting millions of trees; a tax that will encourage more sustainable packing (to reduce plastics) and exempting local loo’s from VAT are all popular announcements. And my call for cider duty to be frozen was heeded to help our local industry. Cheers Chancellor!
SUMMARY OF SOME KEY POINTS
£23 million for the West England Combined Authority, enabling them to further invest in their local transport priorities. This is part of a £770 million extension of the national Transforming Cities Fund.
Increasing the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) from £31 billion to £37 billion, and extending it for an extra year to invest in projects most crucial for productivity and growth across the UK.
£200 million to ensure every primary school that would otherwise never have had access to high-quality broadband can leapfrog to full fibre and act as a hub for their community to do so as well.
- Establishing a £315 million Industrial Energy Transformation Fund to support businesses with high energy use to transform to a low carbon future and increase their competitiveness
- Increasing the Annual Investment Allowance from £200k to £1 million for two years to support firms to invest and grow
- Enabling up to 10,000 entrepreneurs to secure start-up finance by extending the Start-Up Loans Company Programme to 2021
- Through Our Plan for the High Street, we are:
- Cutting business rated by a third for up to 90% of retail properties
- Creating a £675 million Future High Streets Fund to help local areas make their high streets and town centres fit for the future.
- Establishing a High Street Task Force to provide expert advice to local leadership on helping the high street adapt and thrive
- Providing 100% business rates relief for public toilets and continuing the business rates discount for local newspaper offices