Mixed feeling to George’s statement

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THE Autumn Statement made by Chancellor George Osborne has received a mixed reaction in Hartlepool.

Councillor Ray Wells, Conservative Group leader, welcomed the rise in Jobseeker’s Allowance and Child Benefit by one per cent from 2014 and the rise in fuel duty being scrapped.

Small businesses “applauded” some of the moves which included £5.5billion of funding for additional infrastructure and support for firms.

Hartlepool Labour MP Iain Wright was also in favour of the fuel tax u-turn but said the regional pay gap and the one per cent cap for public-sector pay rises worried him “greatly”.

Mr Wright added: “My initial reaction is that it will hit Hartlepool hard.

“The one per cent rise for public sector workers, given that inflation has been running at three, four and five per cent, will see a real decline in the living standards of those workers.”

He continued: “The Chancellor also mentioned about acute and deep cuts to local authorities by 2015.

“I’m genuinely worried that we will not be able to provide the services that many vulnerable people expect.

“We’ve been hit harder than almost anywhere else – £200 less for every man, woman and child that lives in our town – and the last thing we need is the Chancellor taking more.”

But Coun Wells said: “The Conservative Group welcomes the moves made by the Chancellor to help those who have been most affected by the cuts.

“While we appreciate one per cent is a small amount, that, combined with the fuel duty increase being scrapped along with the increase in the tax threshold, will help the most vulnerable in Hartlepool.

“The Conservative Group will be doing all in its power to see that we don’t increase taxes at a local level.”

Mr Osborne also announced a further one per cent cut in corporation tax from April 2014, to 21 per cent, and proposing up to £1.5 billion in loans to finance small firms’ exports.

Sharon Codling, managing director of P and E Coaches, on the Usworth Road Industrial Estate, said: “The freeze on fuel duty makes us very pleased. It makes all the difference.”

Colin Griffiths, a business consultant at the Stranton Business Centre in Hartlepool, said: “One way that reinvestment can be achieved is by not increasing corporation tax.”