I have just finished listening to the Chancellor’s budget speech and its announcements. I am pleased that the 2018 growth forecast has been upgraded to 1.6%, the wage growth is at the highest in nearly a decade and that 3.3 million more people are in work since 2010. The deficit has fallen by four-fifths since 2009/10, from 9.9% to 1.9% and public debt is falling. This progress has taken tough decisions but the hard work of the British people means Britain is now starting to see the rewards, and they are being shared by hardworking people everywhere.
It was excellent and welcome news that we are raising the Tax-Free Personal Allowance a year early, to £12,500. This means hardworking people can now earn more money than ever before and represents a tax cut for 32million hardworking people and a saving for the typical basic rate taxpayer of £1,205 per year. This move encourages work and rewards, hardworking families.
As many of you will know, My Plan for Morley and Outwood includes more help for mental health. This is why I welcome and am pleased that the Government is increasing mental health funding further, by £2 billion, to improve provisions across the country and help tackle the epidemic of mental health issues such as eating disorders and depression.
I am particularly pleased that every school and hospital casualty unit will have its own dedicated mental health team. As part of My Plan for our local area, I have held roundtables with local stakeholders and charities on the subject of mental health and I have written to the Department of Health and the Department of Education asking them to explore the possibility of having councillors in schools as sadly, young people are disproportionately affected by mental health issues. The announcement today, I’m sure, will be welcomed by those across Morley and Outwood who have campaigned so rightly for this progress in our fight against Mental Health issues.
As everyone will be aware, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. To mark the centenary of the Armistice, the Government is making a donation of £10m to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust to support veterans with mental health needs. Our local area is often called the most patriotic in the country, and I know residents will be pleased to know this Government is supporting our brave veterans. I hope that they will go further, and commit to ending the witch hunt of our veterans who gave their service to our country in Northern Ireland. You can read more about this campaign on my website here: https://www.andreajenkyns.co.uk/…/protect-our-veterans-lett…
Another key part of My Plan for Morley and Outwood is making sure local authorities deliver. Though casework, I have helped residents take up issues with the local councils on a wide range of issues and often these are related to roads and poor surfacing, particularly at this time of year as the weather turns against us. I am pleased that the Government has heard the concerns of myself and colleagues and have moved to make an additional £420 million available immediately to local highway authorities in order to tackle potholes, and other works. I have launched a dedicated ‘Pothole Patrol’ line (07838339411) so that residents who wish to raise a pothole concern can do so easily via WhatsApp. I am pleased that this extra funding will help local authorities fix the potholes that residents are sending in and look forward to driving on smoother roads!
As many readers will note, better transport is also a crucial part of My Plan for our area. There are a number of announcements today that will help our local area, I welcome the introduction of a 26-30-year-old railcard, helping up to 4.4 million young people get 1/3rd off their fares, for those commuting into Leeds and Wakefield to work this will be a big help on daily finances. Additionally, for those who drive to work, I am pleased that the Government has frozen fuel duty for the ninth consecutive year, bringing a total saving to the average car driver to over £1,000 and the average van driver to over £2,500. This will help commuters across the constituency.
As someone who worked in retail for many years, I am pleased that small retail businesses, like many across our local area, will see their business rates bill cut by a third, saving them £900 million. I also welcome the Governments £675 million Future High Streets Fund that will improve transport links, re-develop empty shops as homes and offices, and restore old and historic properties. Across our area we have a great number of local pubs, many are central to the community and that is why I am pleased that the Government has frozen beer, cider and spirit duties again, ensuring our pubs can continue to thrive.
The principles behind Universal Credit, that it truly pays to work, that we can cut down on bureaucracy in the benefits system, and that the number of fraudulent claims made is reduced, are principles that I truly believe in. However, whilst the principles are sound, in practice, its introduction has not been flawless, and it is because of this that I signed a letter to the Chancellor asking him to make some alterations so that people are not adversely affected. You can read more about this on my website here: https://www.andreajenkyns.co.uk/…/andrea-writes-chancellor-…. I was pleased today that the Chancellor has listened to his colleagues and he has put an extra £2.7bn into universal credit. I, however, remain cautious about the rollout of Universal Credit and I will be watching this issue closely in the coming weeks as this policy rolls out across our area.
Finally, I also welcome the £400 million extra funding that is being made available immediately for schools. The Budget provides significant new investment into the public services that people care about the most. Further support for children and young people, including school equipment and maintenance, and help for young people to build strong communities free from violence.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and as always if you have any issues or concerns please don't hesitate to contact my office on Andrea.Jenkyns.MP@Parliament.UK or to call me on either 0113 345 0380 or 01924 695 655.