Judging by comments I’ve received out on the street and in my advice surgeries this week, George Osborne’s budget has been warmly welcomed by residents in our area.
We all know that clearing up the economic mess the country was left in back in 2010 is proving a tough task to tackle; one that requires really difficult decisions.
Nonetheless, alongside the difficult financial decisions I believe the Chancellor is right to change the emphasis of how Government should work – building a smaller state that takes less of the money you earn and removing the shackles of government by letting you decide how to spend your own money.
This was a Budget for workers, savers and businesses in Wetherby.
Small businesses are the life blood of our towns so to help them stay afloat and secure local jobs, there was a £1,000 rebate on business rates for high street shops, the employers’ national insurance for those aged under 21 has been abolished and corporation tax has been cut to make Britain more competitive in the global economy.
For workers, the budget raised the personal allowance on income tax to £10,500; cutting tax by £800 for 25 million people and taking 3million low-paid workers out of tax altogether. For those on the minimum wage their tax bill has now been halved.
Government is reducing the tax burden on businesses so we think it only right that renewed economic growth be enjoyed by everyone in the workplace so I’m pleased the Chancellor has announced an above inflation rise in the national minimum wage.
This is real money in the pockets of hard-working people in Wetherby; it’s no longer about the state giving people more handouts, but simply about letting workers keep more of the money they earn.
Money for people to spend as they wish, not money the government spends for them.
Savers and pensioners in Wetherby have been hit hard by the last government’s economic crash with interest rates remaining low.
This is a really difficult position for the Chancellor as a one per cent rise in interest rates would put £1000 on the average family mortgage and would – for many – risk repossession and high inflation.
So, with interest rates relatively low it seems wrong to then tax people on what interest they do earn on their savings which is why the Chancellor has increased the amount an individual can invest in a tax-free ISA to £15,000.
In what has been described a pensions revolution, the Budget also removed the need for pensioners to buy poor value annuities by cutting high taxes previously imposed when drawing down a pension pot.
People can now access the hard-earned money they’ve saved and invest it how they choose in retirement.
The Government’s long-term economic plan is working with growth returning and wage rises on the horizon yet the cost of living is still a struggle for many families.
Yet while Britain’s economy is now growing faster than any other in Europe it would be disastrous for hard-working people if we put this recovery at risk by returning to more borrowing and more debt.
It’s been tough and it’s not over yet, but slowly and surely we are turning around the way Government works by paying down our debts and – crucially - letting people keep more of the money they earn.
* Alec says he takes a keen interest in foreign affairs, transport, energy and higher education.
Following his election as an MP, he took up responsibility for Leeds’s Transport vision as part of the Team of Leeds MPs working with the Leeds Chamber of Commerce.
In September 2012, the Prime Minister approved Alec’s appointment as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Northern Ireland but he returned to the backbenches in October 2013 to better represent his constituents over issues with the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill.
As Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Thalidomide and in conjunction with the Thalidomide Trust, Alec secured the extension of an £80m Thalidomide health grant to support the independent living of victims of the Thalidomide drug.
In December 2012, Alec introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill calling for the introduction of a Welfare Cash Card to prohibit the use of benefits on items such as cigarettes.