I broadly welcome the package of measures announced today by the Chancellor Philip Hammond aimed at easing austerity and providing an economic uplift.
Amongst the headline proposals is the £20billion increase in funding for the NHS promised at the Conservative Party Conference as well as more resources for mental health to pay for a new dedicated service and (£1bn) into social care. The latter composed of £240 extra winter payment and £640m grant funding for 2019-20.
There is also an extra £30billion investment for ‘strategically important’ road improvements (including £420m for filling potholes) which will see new junctions and upgrades to tackle congestion with £1.6bn for science and technology research and development.
In addition, the Treasury is providing a lifeline towards small businesses struggling on the high street by cutting their business rates by one third and setting up a (£675m) “Future High Streets Fund”.
The Chancellor also signalled he will be looking at imposing a so-called ‘digital’ transaction tax to try to better align the base costs of e-commerce retail giants and their bricks and mortar counterparts. This will only apply to tech-companies with £500m global revenues and not start-up entrepreneurs.
Millions are to be spent converting town centres towards residential properties and resources (another £1bn) have been found to help in the implementation roll-out phase of Universal Credit.
Finally, personal income tax allowances will again be raised in 2019-20.
There are a lot of really good things in the Budget statement. The relaxation in spending will provide something for nearly everyone with extra investment in the NHS, Schools, the road network and help for many businesses and small traders on the high street.
Further assistance to those transferring to Universal Credit is a welcome and necessary safeguard against potential hardship as also is the much needed investment in Social Care.
I was also delighted to see the Conservative Party keep its Manifesto Commitments on raising the Personal Tax Allowances - letting people keep more of the money they earn is right for both the economy and hard working families.
Unlike some Parties, with their un-costed, economically illiterate and fantastical promises, this Budget is a careful mixture of extra spending tempered with restraint. In that sense, it still reflects the Chancellor’s notorious cautious nature and is a responsible approach to the many economic challenges which still lie ahead.