The backdrop to this week’s Budget has been the rapid improvement in the economy.
The Chancellor announced it will grow by 2.7 per cent this year. We had the fastest growth of any G8 country in the last quarter.
The deficit, the largest in our peacetime history, has already been reduced by a third and will be reduced by a half during the coming year. By 2018/19, we will have a small surplus of almost £5 billion.
The low interest rates that have resulted have been important for businesses and for families with mortgages, but - as many local people point out to me - they are not so good for savers.
It was pleasing, therefore, to see the Chancellor make ISAs more flexible and increase the allowance to £15,000.
The personal income tax allowance is already set to reach £10,000 at the start of next month and an extension to £10,500 is welcome news. This change will take 3 million people out of tax altogether and benefits everybody earning up to £100,000 a year, saving an average of £800 per person. The higher rate tax threshold will rise too.
The announcement of a new garden city of 15,000 houses in Ebbsfleet was significant.
It’s important to note that, in complete contrast to the Mayfields proposal between Henfield and Sayers Common, this development is on brownfield land and has the support of local people, councillors and MPs. The extension of Help to Buy until 2020 will give many more young people a chance at owning their first home.
The continued freeze in fuel duty will be particularly welcome in our rural area. Fuel is now 20 per cent cheaper than it would have been if the Chancellor had stuck to the last Government’s plans. Taking a penny off the cost of a pint will also help our village pubs. There was also new money for cathedral repairs that will benefit Arundel and Chichester.
Funding high-quality public services and building a stable economy depends on sustaining economic growth and the country living within its means. There is still a long way to go, and spending will have to be restrained for some time.
But the Budget shows that we are on course.
The single biggest risk now would be to abandon the plan, borrow more, spend more and raise taxes, putting hard-won economic security at risk.
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