Last Updated: 21 March 2019
Created: 22 March 2019
You’d be forgiven for not realising it but last week the Chancellor delivered his Spring Statement.
Unlike the Budget, where the Chancellor can announce big changes to taxes or set out major spending plans for the period ahead, the Spring Statement is more about providing an update on how the economy is performing and releasing extra funding to address pressing issues.
The Chancellor was able to explain that the UK economy is remarkably robust: it has grown for nine consecutive years, with the longest unbroken quarterly growth run of any G7 economy, and is forecast to continue growing in each of the next five years.
There was good news on the public finances as well. Government borrowing this year will be just 1.1% of GDP - £3 billion lower than forecast at the autumn Budget - and a staggering £130 billion lower than in the last year of the Labour Government.
And because of the strength of the economy, the independent Office of Budget Responsibility was also able to revise up its economic predictions. It expects the economy to grow faster than Germany this year, and we will see wages grow faster than predicted in every year to 2023.
I was particularly pleased to see the Chancellor was able to confirm his plans announced at the Budget to help put more money in people’s pockets. The National Living Wage will increase this April to £8.21, an annual pay rise of £690 for a full-time worker, while the Personal Allowance will also rise in April to £12,500 and the Higher Rate Threshold to £50,000, cutting tax for 32 million people.
Around 100,000 people in Swindon have already benefited from these changes, and I know from my work as Minister at the Department for Work & Pensions just how positive an impact these changes have.
After delivering a protected increase of £900 million for police funding at the Budget before Christmas, the Chancellor rightly responded to the urgent need to tackle the appalling spate of violent crimes, including those involving knives, with an extra £100 million of investment to help the police deliver a wider, stronger response.
Our efforts to boost home-ownership via the Help to Buy equity loan scheme; and the abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers, have helped 240,000 people onto the property ladder (including more than 1,000 people in Swindon) and the Chancellor was able to provide an extra announced an extra £3 billion to help deliver 30,000 new affordable homes.
As someone who has championed the importance of apprenticeships, and seen how so many people have benefitted from an apprenticeship here in Swindon, I was delighted with the new £700 million package to help small businesses take on more apprentices.
But it isn’t just the big spending announcements that can make a difference. I’ve received e-mails from local residents, including Girl Guide groups across Swindon, concerned that young girls might be missing out on their education because of ‘period poverty’. This is an incredibly important issue, and the Chancellor has rightly acted by providing free sanitary products to schools, so that no girl misses out on her education.
At a time when global markets are in decline, it’s important to highlight how resilient our economy is, and how we continue to build an economy which is fit for the future.