The recent Budget felt very different to previous years’ announcements, with the “end of austerity” signalled.
What does that actually mean? It means that after years of careful management of the economy, we have had eight years of economic growth, more than 3.3 million more people in jobs, higher employment and lower unemployment in every region and nation of the UK, and wages growing at their fastest pace in almost a decade.
The deficit – the gap between what we borrow and what we raise in taxes – is down from almost 10 per cent under Labour to less than 1.4 per cent next year, and falling to 0.8 per cent by 2023-24. Borrowing this year will be £11.6billion lower than forecast in spring, just 1.2 per cent of GDP, and is set to fall from £31.8billion in 2019-20 to £19.8billion in 2023-24, its lowest level in over 20 years.
This is important as it is our children and their children who will pay off our debts. Without getting the deficit down and building a stable economy, we cannot invest in vital public services – and investing we are.
The most notable announcement was the mammoth financial boost for our NHS, worth around £20.4billion a year for five years in a £83.6billion package – the largest cash injection in NHS history. I hope this will translate into more focus on community hospitals in Northumberland, and I am meeting the Health Secretary to discuss this.
There is investment in the borderlands deal, a devolution programme that allows Northumberland and neighbouring counties, regardless of the Scottish border, to focus investment on infrastructure and business sectors that we know will boost our economic growth most effectively.
We will work with neighbours to achieve a coherent economic and cultural community, based on geography and natural assets, working together in the most wild and beautiful part of our country.
The Chancellor’s commitment of £50million for trees – funding to purchase carbon credits from landowners who plant qualifying woodland – is real support to help those who commit to the slowest growing crops: the trees that maintain good soil, improve the water basin, reduce flood risk and hold carbon dioxide, then continue to be a carbon sink when harvested, with wood used in housing and trade.
It is excellent news that the Chancellor will be directing all road tax receipts into road investment and maintenance.
When he was Transport Secretary he supported my efforts to invest in the A1 in Northumberland to dual it and make it into the safe, 21st century road it needs to be. The first £300million is now being spent to dual the first 13 miles. With the commitment to allocate £28billion to the national roads fund, I shall be returning to discuss dualling the last stretch with him shortly.
The commitment to general road maintenance and the battle against potholes is welcome. The ‘Beast From The East’ shredded many roads so this makes real sense.
I am also pleased that the Chancellor has heard the call from rural communities for investment to ensure we can get decent broadband to every property and business. This will ensure we have long-term solutions that use technology to reach everyone.
Finally, the rise in the personal allowance to £12,500 means that 31 million people will keep more of their hard-earned money, and even more of the lower paid will be lifted out of paying tax altogether (1.7 million people have been taken out of paying tax since 2015).
All corners of our public services have played their part in making taxpayers’ money work harder with better value for money, efficiencies and modernising processes, and their dedication.
Now we can reap the rewards of a growing and stable economy.