Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards update constituents in her monthly column.
Six months ago, in my March column, I wrote to you just after a Budget dominated by COVID-19. At the time, some 30 million people had received their first vaccine dose, and all eyes were on the Prime Minister as he announced the lifting of the first waves of COVID restrictions.
Since then, we’ve successfully double jabbed over 45 million people and already delivered 8 million booster vaccines to the elderly and vulnerable. Our job retention scheme has supported nearly 12 million workers since the pandemic began, job vacancies are at a record high, and our recovery from the worst financial crisis in recorded history is defying early expectations.
With the debate around the Chancellor’s landmark announcements in the Autumn Budget last week dominating the headlines, I thought I would use this month’s column to cut through the noise and explain exactly what the Budget means for Rushcliffe.
Curbing the cost of living
Some of you have written to me with worries about the cost of living. I know this has been another issue that has been covered a lot in the media in recent weeks.
To help keep the cost of living low, the Chancellor has increased National Living Wage for people on hourly rates, frozen fuel duty to keep the cost of a tank of petrol down, and cut the Universal Credit taper to help earners keep more money in their pockets.
A helping hand for business
The Government knows that this has been a particularly hard time for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Pubs, shops, restaurants, and cafes have been some of the hardest hit by a fall in footfall over the pandemic.
To help the recovery of our high streets, business rates are both being frozen and cut. This double whammy – the biggest business rates tax cut in 30 years – will see retail, hospitality and leisure businesses paying 50% less on their bills. Combined with the Small Business Rates Relief, this adds up to a tax cut worth £7 billion for 700,000 eligible businesses.
Rushcliffe’s fantastic business owners have worked very hard over the pandemic to make returning customers feel as safe and comfortable as possible. I know I’ll be doing my part to support our local shops, so if you see me on a high street near you please do say hello!
Locally, some of you may have seen that I recently launched my ‘Best Local Shop’ competition for 2021. I know how important local, independent shops are to highstreets across Rushcliffe, so I launched this competition to highlight some of the fantastic shops we have locally.
I also welcome measures in the Budget to cut beer duty. After several years of the duty being frozen, this permanent reduction marks a turning point for a sector that was facing challenges long before COVID-19 hit.
Having heard from a number of constituents in support of the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) campaign to cut beer duty, I know this particular announcement is leaving a pleasant taste for our local pubs and breweries. I’ll raise a glass to that.
More cash for public services
Spending on Public Services will also increase over the next Parliament, including increases to departmental budgets for health, education, and policing. Funding for 50 million more GP appointments, 40 new hospitals, 70 hospital upgrades, 100 new community diagnostic centres, 50,000 more nurses and investment in operating theatres will help catch up on the appointment backlog caused by the pandemic.
Locally, QMC and City Hospital have are to be rebuilt as part of the Government’s initial £3.7 billion hospital building programme. Last year, I visited City Hospital to discuss plans to build a new, on-site respiratory ward, improving access to treatment for people with respiratory illnesses.
Finally, the Budget further commits £500 million to clear the courts backlog, and another £1.8 billion to take the total for schools catch-up funding to almost £5 billion, helping children and young people to catch up on missed schooling.
I look forward to fighting for Rushcliffe’s share of this spending and supporting the Government in delivering on its priorities for the next Parliament.