On Thursday, the Chancellor delivered his autumn statement. Increased spending on education, health and social assistance. The biggest ever rise in the living wage to £10.42, putting us pennies away from our ambition of reaching £10.50 in this Parliament. Guaranteed triple lock for retirees and virtually all benefits have increased with inflation, including the benefit cap. Continuing the commitment to provide for those on the lowest incomes, new cost of living support has been announced which will amount to over £18million for residents of the Darlington constituency, in addition to £39m already provided.
The Labor benches looked rather gloomy. How could they criticize this substantial aid that is distributed across the country?
Even the Scottish National Party looked crestfallen when the Chancellor announced the increased spending that would go to Scotland.
There was good news for small businesses. With reassessment underway, many are facing a reduction in assessed value and therefore a lower rate bill, which would normally be reduced over a three year period, but will happen instantly, which is what I requested. Add to this the fact that the current 50% reduction offered to hospitality and retail businesses will now change to a 75% reduction, with no impact on our local authority’s revenue.
These are difficult times. Inflation is the root of all economic ills, and it is absolutely a recession made in Russia. Countries around the world are facing immense challenges in inflation, energy prices, interest rates, much of which can be attributed to the illegal invasion of Ukraine. I know the Labor Party rejects this and wants to put all the blame on ‘the Tories’, but this just contradicts reality.
There has been very little coverage of Labour’s plans, plans which include a £140billion black hole in the country’s finances which can only mean one thing, even higher taxes.
I welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to infrastructure spending. Locally, here in Darlington, we are already ticking boxes to take it to the next level. £139m at Bank Top station, providing three additional platforms and improving regional connectivity. £35 million invested in our Railway Heritage District, delivering on our commitment to heritage and bringing more visitors to Darlington. £23.3m investment in our city centre, with real changes to the High Row, Northgate and Victoria Road worksites. I could also mention the investment in green technologies at Cummins, the investment in life sciences so critical to the success of our vaccines at the Center for Process Innovation (CPI), or the investment in new business opportunities. education at Darlington College offering T-Levels.
This is a benevolent budget that addresses the real challenges facing our utilities, addresses people’s fears of rising energy costs, and delivers real improvements to the business rates of our smallest companies.
In May, Darlington goes to the polls. The Conservative administration now led by Cllr Jonathon Dulston and by Cllr Heather Scott during the pandemic has brought lasting change to our city after nearly three decades of Labor stranglehold, which saw the arts center closed, the nightmare of passage and our library being threatened with relegation to a few shelves in the Dolphin Centre.
Together with our Council, our Mayor of Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, and our Conservative Government, I will continue to work hard and defend Darlington. Nowhere is collaborative working more evident than in the delivery of the Darlington Business Campus, providing real opportunity for our city.