Wednesday 9 November 2021
We have not yet defeated the coronavirus, but the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine and the roll out of booster jabs have had a big impact on our ability to protect people from it. In the same way, the furlough scheme and business recovery support measures have not eradicated the economic impact of the virus, but they are helping us to build back from it. Last Friday I met with local people in a range of businesses at the Burlington hotel in Folkestone. It was great to hear from people who are looking to invest in our area, and who see its growth potential. For others there are real problems in filling job vacancies, which needs to be addressed, but there is not the issue we thought we would face at the start of the pandemic, when there were predictions of large scale unemployment.
Earlier this month the Chancellor's Autumn Budget and Spending Review laid the foundations for a strong recovery. The budget struck a careful balance between helping employers, assisting employees, raising revenue, and responsibly spending the taxpayer's pound. It was a fair budget. A budget conscious of the undeniable challenges that we face in the wake of unprecedented times and yet cautiously optimistic about the future: providing record investment in public services, reforming antiquated policies like the classification of alcohol and tonnage tax, and backing British industries and their workers through investment in infrastructure, in-demand skills, and innovation incentives.
One of the most significant measures revealed by the Chancellor was a 6.6% increase in the National Living Wage, rising to £9.50 an hour. This equates to an extra £1,000 a year for full-time minimum wage workers, ensuring that everyone receives a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. In a further boost to low-income workers, it was also announced that the Universal Credit taper rate will be reduced by 8% within a matter of weeks; no later than 1 December, helping those who stand to benefit the most from the budget as soon as possible. Once again, this measure will positively encourage work. When combined with the Work Allowance increase of £500, some of the lowest income working families in the country will receive an additional £1,000 in their pockets, supporting them with the cost of living in these testing times.
I know that the cutting of business rates by 50% for the retail, hospitality, and leisure industry was warmly welcomed by the large contingent of businesses in this sector that we are lucky to have in Folkestone and Hythe. In a further boost to the local economy, our community pubs and creative industries will benefit from the Chancellor’s decision to put a freeze on alcohol duty, cut beer duty through a new Draught Relief and double tax relief for the creative industries sector – a tax cut for culture worth almost £250 million. Kent has also benefited from the announcement of up to £200million to support the delivery of gigabit broadband in the county to areas that are currently poorly served. Contracts will be issued to complete the work in the spring. Folkestone and Hythe District Council has also received over £1million of government funding to support housing developments on brownfield sites like Biggins Wood.