The Midsomer Norton & Radstock Journal, 1st November 2018

There is much to welcome in the Budget this week. On Monday morning I tweeted that fixing Universal Credit ought to be the priority, so I was delighted that the Chancellor announced an extra £1 billion over five years to help with the transition. The principles underlying Universal Credit are excellent but it must be funded properly.

Several other issues which have dominated my postbag over recent weeks were also addressed. The duties on fuel, beer, cider and spirits are frozen. There will be an extra £1.5 billion to help high street retailers and I am sure many constituents will welcome money for councils to repair and improve our roads. The £2 billion boost for mental health funding will help people access the support they need and there was £400 million extra for schools, which works out at roughly £10,000 per primary school and £50,000 per secondary school. I was particularly pleased by the announcement of an extra £1 billion for defence and £500m for the Housing Infrastructure Fund, designed to enable a further 650,000 homes to be built.

This Conservative Government’s good management of the economy is particularly highlighted by the fact that the Chancellor managed to provide all this extra funding while also raising the personal allowance tax threshold a year early, meaning a tax cut for £32 million people. In addition, from April the National Living Wage will rise again, from £7.83 to £8.21.

However, I am concerned by the implied threat before the Budget that if we do not accept the deal which Mrs. May agrees with the European Union, then there will be a different, more unpleasant Budget later on. This is reminiscent of George Osborne’s ‘Punishment Budget’ that we were told we would get if we had the audacity to vote to Leave. The implication was that if you do not do what you are told by your elders and betters, then you will find there are nasty consequences. I do not think this is a good way to treat the electorate.

The Budget should have planned for all possible outcomes and should have embraced the opportunity of leaving the EU, rather than taking a ‘business as usual’ approach. For instance, we could have announced that in the case of leaving on World Trade Organisation terms we would immediately reduce all tariffs on goods not produced in the United Kingdom. This would show that we want to be a global nation rather than a peripheral European one and would also lead to cheaper prices in the shops. We could also cut Value Added Tax (VAT) rates on items that we are currently forced to have VAT because of our membership of the EU. These include items such as domestic fuel, women’s sanitary products and solar panels. There is a clear advantage in not having VAT on these types of items. Leaving the EU is a most exciting opportunity and we must make preparations so that we reap the benefits.

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