Budget 2014 Background

The 2014 budget has to be looked at, as all budgets do in the context of the overall economic position of the Country. The situation is still extremely difficult but it is better than it was four years ago.

The scale of the problem is demonstrated by the fact that even though the Government has reduced the annual deficit by a third the Country is still having to borrow an estimated £109billion this year just to pay the bills. No individual, no business, no organisation can continue for long paying out more than it gets in.

Fortunately, the economy is growing again. The latest forecast from the Independent Office of Budget Responsibility is that the economy will grow by 2.7% in the current year.

The reason why all this is important is that it is only because the Conservatives have a long-term economic plan which is making it possible to help savers. pensioners and families. In the long-term it is for the benefit of our children and grandchildren that we get the nations finances in order so we don’t pass the debts we have built up on to them.

Jury Service

I have just spent the last couple of weeks on jury service. I had never been selected before although Sue ( my wife was selected a couple of years ago so she had given me a bit of briefing). I had to report to Lancaster Crown Court. Originally 19 jurors were there then 3 were allowed to go.  There is quite a bit of waiting to do as cases which are not trials are dealt with. Lancaster Crown Court is situated in the old Lancaster Castle and is the oldest Court in the Country. It is a great location.

12 jurors are randomly selected for each trial and my name was drawn out both times. When Sue went she missed out and never got to sit on a jury. Jurors are warned not to discuss the cases and I am therefore not going to make any comment at all about the two cases I sat on. I will say all the other jurors were a great group of people from all walks of life and it is difficult to think of a better system for determining the disputed facts of a criminal case.

Parliament in Manchester?

Some readers may have heard me on BBC Radio Manchester’s Breakfast Show earlier discussing with Alan Beswick the suggestion put forward by the Member of Parliament for Manchester Blackley that Parliament could be moved to Manchester in order to help close what some perceive as a North South divide. Last year the Labour Peer Lord Adonis suggested moving the House of Lords to Manchester.

It seems this issue has risen up the agenda again following the publication of the 2014 Cities Outlook by the charity Centre for Cities.

The report contains lots of interesting facts and figures but as with all these reports it is worth delving behind the headlines. For example although it is called the 2014 report many of the figures and statistics are based on the period 2010 to 2012. This was when the Government were still putting in place the long term plan to turn round the British economy and the position then should not be confused with the progressing situation now.

Also, the report compares dozens of what are referred to as cities. It is not surprising to find Manchester in the list but it is more difficult to explain why it is that of the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester Bury for example is lumped in with the City of Manchester (as are Oldham, Stockport, Salford, Tameside and Trafford ) but Wigan , Bolton and Rochdale are all given individual billing and treated as separate ‘cities’. Strange but true.

Fracking

I support the concept of making use of the natural resources we have for our benefit. Just as we have done over the centuries with wood, coal, oil and gas. Now there is the possibility that enormous amounts of shale gas could be extracted and used by Britons. Increased energy supply should result in lower prices or at least stabilised prices and more importantly we will have security and control over our own supply of energy. Combined with the use of nuclear power and the wind and solar power we have been developing it could provide us with our energy needs for years to come.

I doubt any Government would not want to proceed with fracking which is why I take the view that if it is going to go ahead and it could affect communities here in Bury in the long term it is essential that those most affected receive some of the financial benefit. It has already been announced that communities will get £100,000 for each test well and 1% of revenues now it has been announced instead of half the business rates local authorities will be able to keep 100% of the business rates they collect from each site. What is essential is that these monies are spent as close as possible to the affected communities and not diverted to other projects elsewhere.

Latest unemployment figures

The latest unemployment figures show the number of 16 to 64 year olds claiming Job Seekers Allowance in Bury North has fallen by 422 in the past year to 1,773.

This fall is to be welcomed but there is clearly still much work to do. It does provide one piece of evidence that the Conservatives long term plan is working. The economy is turning the corner and these figures back up the anecdotal evidence that confidence is gradually being restored to British businesses

Autumn Statement: At-a-glance summary of key points

AS_FACEBOOK (2)Chancellor George Osborne has updated MPs on the state of the economy and the government’s future plans in his Autumn Statement.

Britain’s economic plan is working, but the job is not yet done – we need to keep taking the difficult decisions to secure the economy for the long-term.

The biggest risk to Britain comes from those who would abandon the plan – and borrow and spend more. Our long-term plan will secure a responsible recovery for all. The key points are outlined below.

TAXES AND ALLOWANCES

Employer National Insurance contributions are to be scrapped on 1.5 million jobs for young people.

The personal income tax allowance will rise to £10,000 from April 2014, and then increase from 2015-16 by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation.

A married couples and civil partners tax break, which is set to cost about £700m a year, is proposed to start in April 2015, enabling people to transfer £1,000 of their income tax allowance to their partners.

Business rates in England to be capped at 2% rather than linked to RPI inflation, with some retail premises in England to get a discount. Businesses moving into vacant high-street properties will have their rates cut by 50%.

From April, a new tax relief is to be introduced for investment in social enterprises and new social impact bonds.

JOBS AND TRAINING

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits is down 200,000, with unemployment now forecast to fall from 7.6% this year to 7% in 2015 much earlier than expected.

Unemployment is then expected to fall further to 5.6% by 2018.

Total number of jobs to rise by 400,000 this year and 3.1 million jobs predicted to be created by 2019.

A boost in the government’s start-up loans scheme will aim to help 50,000 more people start their own businesses.

Export finance capacity available to support British businesses will be doubled to £50bn.

TRANSPORT

Petrol taxes stay frozen – a planned rise of 2p per litre by the last Labour Government for next year is to be scrapped.

Regulated train fares will rise in line with inflation, not at 1% above RPI as planned.

The tax disc to show motorists have paid vehicle excise duty is to be replaced with an electronic system.

EDUCATION AND FAMILIES

An extra 30,000 places at English universities will be created in 2014-15. The following year, the current cap on student numbers will be abolished entirely.

Science, technology and engineering courses will receive increased funding, and a new science centre in Edinburgh University is to be named after Prof Peter Higgs, the discoverer of the Higgs boson particle.

The proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university is up.

An additional 20,000 apprenticeships are to be funded over the next two years.

All pupils at state schools in England in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are to get free school lunches from next September, at an estimated cost of £600m a year.

BENEFITS AND PENSIONS

The state pension age is to increase to 68 in the mid-2030s and to 69 in the late 2040s. In April 2014, the state pension will rise by £2.95 a week.

Overall welfare spending is to be capped.

Anyone aged 18 to 21 claiming benefits without basic English or Maths will be required to undertake training from day one or lose their entitlement.

People unemployed for more than six months to start a traineeship, take work experience or do a community work placement or lose benefits.

HOUSING

The government hopes £1bn in loans will boost housing developments in Manchester and Leeds, among other sites.

Councils are to sell off the most expensive social housing and rundown urban housing estates to be regenerated, and workers who live in council houses are to be given priority on housing lists if they need to move home to find a job.

ECONOMIC GROWTH

The forecast for economic growth this year is 1.4%, then 2.4% next year and then maintained at 2.2%, 2.6%, and 2.7% for the next 3 years.

GOVERNMENT BORROWING

The UK’s “underlying” deficit – has been revised down by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Borrowing is expected to come in at £111bn for this year, falling in 2014-15 to £96bn, then down to £79bn in 2015-16, £51bn the year after and £23bn the year after that.  By 2018-19 there should be a £2bn surplus.

Departmental budgets will be cut by about £1bn next year and the year after to help cut the deficit.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Tax allowances aiming to encourage investment in shale gas to cut tax on early profits by 50%.

More investment in “quantum technology”, which involves attempting to apply the strange behaviour of materials on a tiny scale to practical purposes, is promised.

OVERSEAS AID

The government’s pledge to spend 0.7% of gross national income on international development is to be met without an increase to the current aid budget.

Small Business Saturday

Calling the people of Bury, Tottington and Ramsbottom.

Give yourself a warm glow in the run up to Christmas.

Support our local small businesses this Saturday – 7 December 2013 on “Small Business Saturday”.

SBS-UK-Social-Icons-180x150 (2)“Small Business Saturday” is about reconnecting people with the small businesses in their local areas and demonstrating the enormous value that they bring to individual customers and to the UK as a whole.

The vast majority of companies in the UK are small businesses and they provide two thirds of all private sector jobs.

Small firms don’t have the public profile and marketing budgets of large corporations and Small Business Saturday is an excellent way to celebrate small businesses and support them in showcasing their products and services to local communities.

We want to see Small Business Saturday raise the profile of our local small businesses so that residents and businesses alike begin to think “small first”.