Opinions divided over the Budget

THE MPs whose constituencies cover Morpeth, Ponteland and Widdrington have had their say on the Government’s budget.

Conservative Guy Opperman and Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith are pleased with the measures announced by Chancellor George Osborne last week.

But Labour member Ian Lavery believes the coalition Government’s policies are ‘hurting families’ and criticism has also come from Northumberland Wildlife Trust.

Mr Osborne announced, among other measures, that fuel duty would be cut by 1p per litre and the planned inflation rise in fuel duty due in April will be delayed until 2012, although VAT on fuel will not be reduced.

The personal tax allowance will rise a further £630 to £8,105 in April 2012, corporation tax will be cut by two per cent in April, there will be new rules to require planners to prioritise growth and jobs and 21 ‘enterprise zones’ will be created in England, backed by tax incentives.

However, he also said that the 2011 growth forecast has been downgraded from 2.1 per cent to 1.7 per cent.

Mr Opperman, MP for Hexham, said: “This is a budget which will really fire up our private sector here in the North East. The measures will help support small business and create a future based on growth and jobs, rather than debt.

“I have long championed a Fair Duty Stabiliser to help with the cost of fuel and I am very pleased that the Chancellor has introduced this measure, as well as the 1p per litre cut in fuel duty, all paid for by a tax on oil companies.”

But Mr Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, said: “George Osborne’s reckless policies to cut too deep and too fast are hurting families here in Wansbeck.

“In this budget the Tories have confirmed the banks will get a tax cut this year while 10,235 families in Wansbeck will see their child benefit frozen and will pay an average extra £450 in VAT this year.”

He added that the Government should have reversed the VAT rise on petrol to help further reduce prices.

However, Sir Alan, MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, said: “Help with fuel costs for motorists in rural areas like ours is welcome, and further cuts in tax on low pay implement a key Liberal Democrat policy.

“I also take personal pleasure in the announcement that a cost-cutting measure I have pressed for over many years — the combining of the Income Tax and National Insurance systems — is to go ahead.”

Chief Executive of Northumberland Wildlife Trust Mike Pratt said: “This Government may consider itself to be the greenest ever, but this approach feels like a blast from the past — a retrograde step for society.

“Increasingly it is clear that we can’t go on sacrificing the natural environment.

“The debate is not jobs or wildlife, but jobs and wildlife.”

He added: “It seems this Budget is all for Big Business and not the Big Society.”