The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, delivered his budget statement to the House of Commons last week, where he was able to state that the economy will continue to grow and create new jobs, personal taxes will fall, investment in the NHS will go up, and the national debt will shortly start falling in relation to the size of the economy, for the first time since the before the financial crisis.
There was also a significant package of measures announced, worth £44billion over the next five years, to give a boost to the housing market; to make it easier for people to access more affordable homes to rent and buy. These include removing stamp duty for first time buyers on all properties worth up to £300,000, and investing a further £15billion in house building to help Britain reach the target of completing the construction of 300,000 new homes a year. House building also has the capacity to create new jobs for people working in the construction sector, and to support this the Chancellor announced an additional £40million investment for training in this sector.
For the health service, Philip Hammond has provided an additional £350 million to support services this winter, and a further £1.6billion for next year. The budget also provided an extra £10billion to help upgrade buildings and facilities. This is good news, but we need to make sure that extra resources get to the places that need them most. On Thursday evening last week I met with representatives of the Folkestone GP practices, and the leadership team from the South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group. I will do all I can to support their plan to transform primary care and GP services in our area.
I have written in this column before about the need for investment in the infrastructure we may require following the UK leaving the European Union on 2019. This includes delivering the operation stack relief lorry park. Last Monday in the House of Commons I asked the Treasury to confirm that the £250million set aside for the construction of the lorry park is still available for that purpose. In the Budget I was also pleased that the Chancellor committed an additional £3billion over the next two years to invest in the resilience we need at our ports to cope with any changes to the management in freight and trade between the UK and EU. This should include installing computerised monitoring equipment that allows the authorities to closely track the movement of freight in and out of the country, whilst also avoiding unnecessary delays at the border. It is vital for Kent, and the rest of the UK, that we can maintain the smooth flow of trade with the rest of the EU, after we leave the European Single Market and Customs Union.