Budget ‘hits the people it should be helping,’ says Hartlepool MP

Iain Wright MP
Iain Wright MP

Philip Hammond’s Budget hit the very people the Chancellor was supposed to be helping, says Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

Highlights of the Chancellor’s announcements yesterday included the introduction of T-levels – technical qualifications, an alternative to A-levels – for 16- to 19-year-olds, a rise in National Insurance contributions for the self-employed and an additional £2billion in funding for social care over the next three years for England.

“This Budget was all about taxing the enterprise and ambitions of small business owners, who will be dismayed at the prospect,” said Mr Wright.

“The economy is built on small businesses, and those who are classed as self employed will face a big tax hike.

“This tax increase does nothing to address bogus self employment, where people who are really employees but are exploited to be classed as self employed - these people are not only exploited, but face a double whammy in terms of having to pay an extra tax.”

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said the authority would have to examine the fine print of the announcements before it was clear what impact the Budget would have on over-stretched social care services.

“The Council has made it very clear to the Government that we need additional resources to provide social care services at a time when our government grant is reducing significantly and demand for services is increasing,” he said.

“It is too early to say what implications the Chancellor’s proposals could have on people in Hartlepool as the headline figure is for services across England.

“As soon as further details are available we will analyse these to establish how it could affect the local picture.

“At this stage it is unclear if all local authority areas will benefit from today’s announcement.”

Leigh Taylor, regional director for SME banking in North East at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said the Budget would at least offer some much needed stability for business: “With few major shake-ups revealed by the Chancellor in the Budget, businesses can focus their attention on driving growth and preparing for any uncertainty ahead for the economy.

“A third of North East firms told us in our latest Business in Britain report that they had experienced difficulties recruiting skilled labour in the second half of 2016, and so firms will welcome the government’s commitment to boosting skills through the creation of ‘T-levels’.

“The Chancellor’s continued commitment to the North’s transport infrastructure through a new £90million fund will also be key for North East firms, and many will welcome the plans to improve connectivity to the rest of the UK.

“Firms may have to wait for more clarity on business rates changes, however the three measures outlined by the Chancellor’s will be well-received by some small businesses.”

And Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, commented: “We’re encouraged to see that a new duty band for high-strength ciders, which would see them taxed at a higher rate, is to be consulted on.

“We know the cheapest alcohol products are some of the most harmful.

“Because strong white cider is so affordable and easily available, it is often the drink of choice for some of the most vulnerable members of society, including young people and dependent drinkers.

“These high-strength drinks are devastating lives and causing some of the worst alcohol-related harms.

“Three litres of cider, containing the same alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, can still be sold in our region for under £4.”