This week the Chancellor delivered his first Budget speech.
We are ensuring that hard working families keep more of what they earn. From April, the National Living Wage will increase by 6.2 per cent from £8.21 to £8.72. This applies to over 25s at present, but in the coming years this will be extended to 23 then 21 year olds. Over 30m people will be receiving a tax cut worth on average £104 as the threshold from which employees and the self-employed start paying National Insurance contributions will rise to £9,500.
The tampon tax will also be abolished, fuel duty will be frozen once again, and duty rates on alcohol will also be frozen.
We are backing businesses, innovation, investment and trade. Crucially businesses (shops, cinemas, leisure, restaurants, pubs, convenience stores etc) with a rateable value below £51,000 will be taken out of business rates altogether for a year. This is a vital boost for our High Streets. This will assist businesses with the growth of online shopping along with the threat of coronavirus.
We are providing major investment in education, science and research. We will increase public R&D investment to £22bn per year. This will support world-leading research across the whole UK. Further education colleges will see an investment of £1.5bn for upgrading their buildings and a £2.5bn National Skills Fund to improve adult skills.
We will continue our work on tackling climate change and protecting our environment. To support our ambitious 25 Year environment plan the budget announced further actions to improve our natural environment. The Nature for Climate Fund will provide £640m towards planting trees and restoring peatlands. This will mean an increase of tree planting by over 600 per cent, with an area the size of Birmingham being covered over the next five years. The Budget also introduced the Nature Recovery Network Fund, a partnership between businesses and local communities to protect and restore local wildlife.
We are investing in infrastructure: new roads, railways, flood defences, broadband & homes. To improve our roads, over £27bn of funding will be available. With the increase in extreme weather and the subsequent floods, the Government is providing £5.2bn for flood defences. The Budget also outlined a further £12.2bn investment in building good quality affordable homes.
We are continuing the record funding in our NHS - £6bn of additional funding will be made available to the NHS. The Government has committed to creating 50m more GP surgery appointments a year. This will be achieved by recruiting, training and retaining around 6,000 more doctors and 6,000 more primary care professionals.
We are providing further funding for the police, in addition to the previously announced £750m of funding for 20,000 additional police officers. For example, £114m will be provided for counterterrorism, an extra £83m for counter-terrorism policing and £31m for the UK intelligence community.
The Budget also outlined the Government’s response to the coronavirus. An initial emergency £5bn response fund, will provide the resources that the NHS and public services need to tackle COVID-19. The Chancellor was explicit that whatever funding is required to deal with COVID-19, the Government will make it available.
This Budget ensures we are levelling up of our economy, providing assistance to hard working people, and delivering on our manifesto pledges.