SIOBHAN BAILLIE: Budget was on right track to help needy

The Stroud MP’s weekly column.

THE Chancellor’s Spring Statement took place last week and there was help for Stroud people struggling with rising prices and energy bills.

The rise in the National Insurance threshold, targeted support for those in real need via councils, tax breaks for small businesses and the 5p cut in fuel duty – something I asked the Chancellor to consider – will help.

However, as Rishi Sunak indicated himself, he cannot help everyone with all the problems created by global issues but he is trying to find ways to meet the needs of those who require the most help.

I would also add the Spring Statement is just an update. It is not the budget – that happens in the autumn.

The Chancellor was right to be a bit cautious at this stage and wait for further information on energy prices and the impact of the Ukrainian conflict on the country’s finances before making further commitments for the taxpayer to manage.

Another announcement in the budget was the Chancellor’s welcome announcement that VAT on insulation will be abolished for the next five years.

As part of the Conservative Environment Network, I wrote to him with colleagues to highlight our support of home insulation and energy efficiency as a means to reduce our dependence on gas imports and shield our constituents from the volatility of gas prices.

These are challenging times – many of them out of the UK Government’s control. If we are responsible with the country’s finances as we deal with the global shocks and recover from the pandemic, I hope that we can do even more on tax cutting in 2024 and other support measures.

I spoke in the House of Commons recently about home schooled children. In Stroud and Gloucestershire, we have high numbers.

I have spoken to parents and I know that a lot of care is taken to look after their children’s welfare and educate them to a high standard. They also report a really good relationship with Gloucestershire County Council, as I told the chamber.

But I added that many parents are worried about the new compulsory registration scheme.

The minister has agreed to meet with me and some Stroud parents to talk about this.

Away from Westminster, I was back in the constituency towards the end of last week and I had the joy of visiting Nailsworth donkey sanctuary. Donna and Tim, who many local people will know – have been taking in rescue donkeys for years.

They have 11 donkeys and the animals can live up to 60 years old so it is a lifetime commitment.

All support for the sanctuary is from donations, including for vet bills. I was really humbled by the care they take for these animals, some of whom were badly treated before they found such a loving home.

The couple are really caring, lovely people who have given the animals a beautiful place to live. Details on what they do and how you can support them are on their Facebook page.

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