Budget Day is always one of those events in the Parliamentary calendar when the Chamber is packed, and so it was this week. Because what the Chancellor says matters, for everyone in the country.
First the view of the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, it upgraded its growth and jobs forecasts for the economy and predicts that wages will continue to rise above inflation in each of the next five years, a trend we have already seen over the past six months.
When it came to more money for public services, the Chancellor re-confirmed the Prime Minister’s NHS funding commitment made earlier in the year. An extra £20.5 billion for the NHS, in real terms, by 2023-24. An average real growth rate in the NHS’s budget of 3.4 per cent a year.
Personal allowances are up again next year, so an effective tax cut for 32 million taxpayers. A basic rate tax payer will get to keep an extra £1,205 in their pocket compared to in 2010, when the Conservatives came into office.
I lobbied both David Cameron and George Osborne, when they were in office, to increase the personal allowance to a level whereby no one on minimum wage would have to pay any income tax. The fact that both personal allowances and the National Living Wage, up by almost 5 per cent next year, have been increasing is very welcome.
Fuel duty has been frozen for the ninth year in a row, which is a big boost for motorists and businesses, and there was backing for the high street with rates to be cut by a third for small shops and retailers. Local councils also get more money, an extra £ 1 billion which includes money for social care and to fix pot holes.
As the Minister responsible for the government’s new welfare benefit, Universal Credit, I was delighted with the extra net £4.5 billion being injected into the benefit between now and 2023/24. This will not only help people transition from legacy benefits onto Universal credit, but also provide an extra £630 a year to help working families receiving the benefit.
This was a One Nation Conservative budget, with extra funding for key public services, as well as help with the cost of living and tax cuts for individuals and businesses. Quite rightly, the Chancellor has received plaudits from many.