We have just finished one of the major events of the Parliamentary year - the Budget. This unavoidably means that there have been a lot of announcements at once, and so I would like to dedicate my column to explaining some of those that may be of most interest to West Oxfordshire residents:
1) Housing help for the young: Stamp Duty has been abolished for first-time buyers for houses up to £300,000, a significant boost;
2) NHS investment: an overall £7.5bn increase in funding, including an extra £2.8bn to the NHS over the next three years, with an immediate cash injection of £350m this year;
3) Education & Skills: The Government will invest £406m in maths and technical education, and will reward schools and colleges by giving them £600 for every extra pupil who decides to take Maths or Further Maths A levels; there will also be a further £20m to further education colleges to help them prepare for the introduction of T-levels;
4) Tax help: an increase in the personal allowance means that no income tax will be paid on the first £11,850 earned, meaning the average taxpayer will be £1,075 a year better off than they were in 2010;
5) Wages: the National Living Wage has been given a £600 increase per year for full time workers;
6) Housing & Infrastructure: a £44bn capital investment to boost the housing market, with special emphasis on a £215m deal for Oxfordshire, including £30m per year for infrastructure for five years and £60m for affordable housing as part of the focus on the wider Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge high-technology growth corridor. This is a major step towards a solution to two of the biggest issues that we face: housing cost and the need for infrastructure to deal with new housing;
7) Clean Air: a new £220m fund to provide support for the implementation of local air quality plans;
8) Environment: the Government will investigate how the tax system and charges on single use plastic items can reduce waste such as plastics in our oceans;
9) Support for Small Businesses: recognising the significant pressures faced by small businesses, the Chancellor announced that he will not reduce the VAT threshold for small businesses from £85,000, and will bring forward by two years the uprating of business rates based on the CPI inflation index, saving businesses £2.3bn. As the Small Business APPG Chair in Westminster, and campaigner for small businesses, I am delighted to see more progress on this issue;
10) Support for our local pubs: the Chancellor will increase tax on low-quality alcoholic drinks but will freeze duties on other alcoholic drinks, including wine and beer. He will also extend the £1,000 discount for small pubs to March 2019 - in a major boost for our local pubs and breweries.
There is much, much more, but these are the immediate, stand-out points. I will be considering the Budget in detail, looking at the small print and assessing the impact it will have on West Oxfordshire. I would, as always, be very interested to hear your thoughts. I invite you all to contact me about the Budget – or any other issue – at firstname.lastname@example.org.