The budget last week extended 30 hours’ free childcare to all children over nine months and under five by 2025.
Local families tell me they are struggling with high childcare costs and our early years businesses need more support so I campaigned for change. I am pleased to see the announcements along with abolishing up front childcare fees for those on Universal Credit – another ask I made of the Chancellor.
There is more to do for families and the sector but the Budget was welcome as it will help parents across Stroud to work at full tilt while there are cost of living pressures.
Other measures in the budget were also focused on tackling labour shortages and productivity – both big challenges. Stroud businesses always raise recruitment issues with me.
There is a new approach to welfare and helping people to work once they have been off sick. Abolishing tax penalties on pension pots will stop experienced people like, doctors, civil servants, engineers, scientists and the like from leaving the jobs market. This will stop people retiring early to avoid pension tax penalties. Local doctors have contacted me about this too so I am surprised the Labour party are now against the change.
I was disappointed with the corporation tax rise but given the economics and global pressures I was not surprised it happened. The Chancellor helped businesses with the carrot of full capital expensing for the next three years. This is, in effect, a £9 billion a year cut on corporation tax to encourage investment and improve productivity.
Our pubs received a boost with beer duty frozen for draught pints. Stroud pubs are good at giving me homework to lobby ministers!
The freeze on any rise in fuel duty and the Chancellor indicating the 5p cut will stay is welcome news in a rural area like ours.
The Energy Price Guarantee was also extended for a further three months until gas prices start to fall in the summer. The Chancellor told us all that cost-of-living support has so far cost £94 billion, or £3,300 per household.
On top of £400 billion spent on the pandemic these are huge sums we must pay for. It cannot be avoided and it is dishonest to say otherwise.