On Wednesday last week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, presented his first budget to the House of Commons. One of the most important measures in the Budget, was the additional £2billion to support social care services; something that will help patients and their families, right across the country. I have written before in this column my concerns that many smaller and community businesses were going to lose out from the revaluation of business rates. I was pleased that the Chancellor announced further support for firms who find themselves in this position. This includes a pledge that anybusiness coming out of small business rate relief will not see a bill increase by more than £50 a month, and subsequent increases will be capped. Local pubs will be given a £1,000 discount for all pubs with rateable value of less than £100,000, and local councils will be given a £300m fund to deliver discretionary rate relief for individual hard hit cases. Overall, the business rate bill for the Shepway area is going down, but if any readers have remaining concerns about how this rate review will affect them, please let me know and I will be happy to take up individual cases with the government.
Building on last year’s pay rise for a million of the lowest paid workers through the National Living Wage, this figure will rise again in April to a minimum of £7.50 an hour. In real terms this equates to a £500 pay rise for a full time worker. Moreover, the income tax personal allowance is set to increase for the seventh year in a row, meaning that you can now earn £11,500 before paying any tax, a tax cut that will benefit twenty-nine million people. In addition to these tax changes to benefit people in work, the Chancellor renewed the government’s commitment to create 3 million more apprenticeships by 2020 to build on the 2.4 million already in existence. Locally we have seen further investment by East Kent College in its training schemes for further education students, particularly for courses linked to jobs in the construction sector. As the Prime Minister has said since the budget, the proposals to reform national insurance contributions paid by self employed people will be introduced as a seperate measure in the autumn, and will require legislation. I look forward to studing these proposals in detail when they come before parliament.
The budget also unveiled funding for a further 110 new free schools on top of the current government commitment of 500. Later this year the government is due to announce the plans for the successor school to Pent Valley in Folkestone, which is expected to be established as a free school. This new school will open its doors for students in September 2018. The budget contained further good news for Kent, including funding for a new initiative for the Port of Dover which will see new technology invested in the A20/ port area to ease traffic congestion. I have no doubt that this multi-million pound cash injection will be welcomed by many residents and drivers who regularly use that route. I’m delighted the government is using a large chunk of extra funding to improve the Port and I’m sure this will benefit the whole of the M20 corridor through East Kent.