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Stamford and Bourne MP and council leaders react to Chancellor's Budget

Local Conservative leaders have responded following the budget announced by the Chancellor yesterday (Wednesday).

A freeze on alcohol and fuel duty, minimum house deposits dropped and a furlough extension were all announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

While most of the key announcements had already been made, he also revealed he will extend the £20 uplift on Universal Credit until October.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (44828849)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (44828849)

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Sunak said: "A year ago in my first budget I announced our initial response to the pandemic. What was thought to be a temporary disruption to our everyday life has fundamentally altered it.

"Much has changed but one thing has stayed the same. I said I would do whatever it takes - I have done and I will do so.

"Since March over 700,000 people have lost their jobs. Our economy has shrunk by 10 per cent - the largest fall in over 300 years. Our borrowing has been the highest it's been outside of war time.

"It's going to take a long time to recover. But we will."

The Office for Budget Responsibility is forecasting a "swifter and more sustained recovery" with a recovery expected by the middle of next year - six months earlier than predicted in November.

Outlining a three-part plan to recovery, Mr Sunak confirmed the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September. The Government's contribution will be tapered from July. At that point employers will be expected to contribute 10 per cent, increasing to 20 per cent in August and September.

A fourth grant from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be available to claim from April, worth 80 per cent of three months’ average trading profits up to £7,500. The fifth grant will be three months of average profit from month.

The 600,000 recently self-employed people will also be eligible for grants.

He added: "People who's turnover has fallen by 30 per cent or more will continue to receive the full 80 per cent grant."

The Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week will continue for six months. The national living wage will be raised to £8.91.

An extra £19 million is being invested in domestic violence programmes to support vulnerable women. Mental health support for veterans will receive £10 million. Non-essential retail grants will receive up to £10,000.

Museums, theatres and galleries will receive money from a £400m fund allocated to help them reopen. Another £300m will be given to sports.

Several of the countries largest lenders will be offering 95 per cent mortgages from next month to help people buy their own homes and "change generation rent in to generation buy". Stamp Duty holidays will also be extended.

"This budget protects the livelihoods of British people," Mr Sunak added. "At this budget we are announcing an additional £65 billion of measures over this year and next to support the economy in response to the coronavirus. Our total support package this year and next is £352 billion.

"Coronavirus has caused one of the largest and most comprehensive and sustained economic shocks this country has ever faced. by any objective analysis this government has delivered one of the largest most comprehensive and sustained responses the country has ever seen. We're using the full measure of our fiscal fire power to protect the livelihoods of British people."

MP Gareth Davies (38960450)
MP Gareth Davies (38960450)

Grantham and Stamford MP Gareth Davies used his speech on Wednesday’s Budget Day debate in the House of Commons to highlight the importance of sound public finances and the fact that workers and small businesses will drive the economic recovery.

Addressing the House, he said: “Our economic recovery will not be driven from the floor of this House of Commons. It will be driven from the factory floors of Grantham and the shop floors of Stamford. It will be driven by workers and small businesses, not politicians. But we can provide stability and certainty through management of our public finances.”

Mr Davies focused on the benefits which boosting the skills of young people could bring to the area, using the Grantham-based engineering firm Iconic Engineering Solutions as an example of a business which can benefit from having more technical workers available in the jobs market.

More broadly, local engineering firms are set to benefit from £3,000 incentive payments to take on apprentices and £126 million to triple the number of traineeships next year, enabling some of Grantham’s largest employers to draw on local talent and grow their businesses.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Davies said the Budget "provides businesses and families in our area with the vital support and reassurance they need to get through the coming months of this awful pandemic".

He added: "I was particularly pleased to see that VAT for hospitality and tourism businesses will continue to be reduced at 5 per cent for the next six months and that the planned increases in alcohol duties will all be cancelled. These measures, together with the Restart Grants, which will provide up to £18,000 in new grants for hospitality and the extension to the 100 per cent business rate holiday will help those businesses that have had to close, get through the coming months as we work our way towards re-opening our economy.”

Senior county councillors have welcomed the budget announcements from the Chancellor, and say they look forward to seeing more details of the government's long-term levelling up commitment.

Coun Martin Hill, chairman of the Lincolnshire Outbreak Engagement Board. Photo supplied (43289845)
Coun Martin Hill, chairman of the Lincolnshire Outbreak Engagement Board. Photo supplied (43289845)

Coun Martin Hill, leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said: "We welcome the measures included in the Budget, particularly the continued support for businesses, which is vital for recovery of the economy.

"However, it's also good to see the chancellor setting out a sensible plan for the rebalancing of the public finances in the long-term."

Coun Colin Davie, executive councillor for economy, added: "The extension to furlough payments will offer a further lifeline to many county businesses, as well as grants and tax breaks for those in leisure and tourism, and I recently wrote to the Chancellor in support of these initiatives. It's vital that our sports, arts, leisure, personal care and hospitality industries continue to be supported while Covid restrictions are gradually lifted this year.

"I'm pleased that more will be done to support our High Streets which are in desperate need of investment, with re-start grants for retail businesses. The government has also re-affirmed its commitment to Town Deals for Skegness, Mablethorpe, Lincoln and Boston, and we will work with our district council colleagues in these areas, to ensure our High Streets can look to a more positive future.

"Reduced business rates and VAT cuts well into 2021 will be valuable to many. In the meantime, we have already taken action with our own grant schemes for small businesses that haven't been eligible for government support– both to help them in the recovery and to help them grow and innovate for the future.

"Both the Humber and East Midlands Airport freeports will be incredibly important for our area and will make Greater Lincolnshire an even more attractive area for investment. Together with the Greater Lincolnshire LEP, the county council will play a lead role in unlocking this potential and pushing for and utilising government funding. We'll be keen to explore the detail of the Levelling Up and UK Shared Prosperity funds as these are much-needed for our future growth."

Councillor Kelham Cooke, chairman of InvestSK and leader of SKDC. (43763746)
Councillor Kelham Cooke, chairman of InvestSK and leader of SKDC. (43763746)

Leader of South Kesteven District Council Kelham Cooke said: "Throughout the pandemic, South Kesteven District Council has continued to deliver vital front-line services for residents, whilst creating opportunities for growth and investment in our district.

"Despite the many challenges of Covid-19, we have worked hard to support residents, local businesses and, most importantly, those in the greatest need.

"One of the cornerstones of our support is our Community Hub, set up to co-ordinate help for our most vulnerable residents. Since its launch, over 18,000 vulnerable people have been contacted personally to offer support.

"The Chancellor's Budget is designed to provide an extended safety net whilst we continue to feel the effects of Covid-19. It will support the Council's hard work to secure an economic recovery for businesses, the self-employed, and for individuals.

"The Budget will also help families through the continued tough times ahead through an extended furlough scheme and an extension to the uplift in Universal Credit.

"Similarly, at South Kesteven District Council, we have also stepped up with a positive response to the challenges of the pandemic. So far this year, we have supported 3,747 people with benefits claims, made hardship fund payments to 8,617 council taxpayers, totalling £546,376, distributed £91,000 of test and trace payments, and awarded over £38 million in business grants. Our own grants to foodbanks and local charities, agreed on Monday, also help direct funds to where they are most needed."

To find out more about financial support available through SKDC, visit southkesteven.gov.uk and investsk.co.uk

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