Nicola sat in the House of Commons on 18th March to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer deliver the Government’s final Budget before the General Election. The Budget made the choice facing the country clear: returning to the chaos of the past or working through the plan that is delivering for the UK. In the face of weaker world and European growth, Britain has grown faster than any other major advanced economy in the world.
The Chancellor announced that the Government has met the debt target set out in its very first Budget – debt falling as a share of national income in 2015/16. The UK’s growth forecasts have been revised up as we are forecast to grow by 2.5% this year, and the Office for Budget Responsibility has said that living standards will be higher in 2015 than in 2010 by an average of £900 per family. On top of this, living standards are forecast to grow strongly every year for the rest of the decade.
Employment is also at a record high, and Nicola has welcomed the news that unemployment has fallen by 62% in Oxford West and Abingdon since May 2010. Across the country, 1.9 million more people are now in work than in 2010.
The Chancellor told the Commons that he would use a boost in the public finances caused by lower inflation and welfare payments to pay off some of the national debt and ease the squeeze on public spending a year earlier than planned. Among other announcements, the Government has committed to:
- Raising the personal tax-free allowance to £10,800 next year and £11,000 the year after. This means the typical working taxpayer will be over £900 a year better off, and 3.7 million of the lowest paid will be taken out of tax altogether
- Cutting beer duty, cider duty and duty on Scotch whisky, and freezing wine duty
- Freezing fuel duty to help families and small businesses with the cost of filling up a car
- A new Personal Savings Allowance to abolish taxes for 17 million savers- from next year the new tax-free allowance for the first £1,000 of the interest basic rate taxpayers earn on savings will be completely free, taking 95% out of savings taxation altogether
- A new Help to Buy ISA to help people pay for their first deposit will mean that for every £200 a first time buyer saves, the Government will give a bonus of £50- up to £3,000
- A new flexible ISA to encourage saving by trusting people with their hard-earned money
- More freedom for pensioners over their savings. The Government will extend new pension freedoms to the 5 million pensioners who already have an annuity, meaning pensioners will be able to sell their annuity income in return for a lump sum
- Ensuring future scientific success through new support for PhDs and research-based masters defrees, and £140 million for world class research across the UK into infrastructure and cities of the future
- A new digital infrastructure strategy- using £600 million to clear new spectrum bands for further auction to improve mobile networks, providing free WiFi in public libraries and bringing ultrafast broadband of at least 100 Megabits per second to nearly all homes
- A major new review of business rates
- Abolishing the annual tax return to make the tax system simpler
- Using £75 million of LIBOR fines to support charities, including the Oxfordshire Air Ambulance
- Trebling the £15 million Church Roof Fund to increase how much charities can claim in automatic gift aid on donations to £8,000
- Reducing the Lifetime Allowance for pension tax relief to £1 million
- Increasing the Bank Levy by £900 million, and stopping banks from deducting from corporation tax the compensation they make to customers for products they mis-sold
- Continuing to crack down on tax evasion and avoidance
Nicola has also campaigned so hard for the Department for Transport upcoming Highways England Delivery Plan to set out a timetable for the improvements to the A34. This will have a tangible impact on local people; alleviating the congestion which affects their daily lives. Further, the Oxford Science Park Enterprise Zone will be extended with business rates discount and retention, showing the Government’s continued commitment to supporting vital research and our local innovation economy.