The big news of the week was of course the Budget on Monday, apparently the first Budget to be held on a Monday since 1962, when I was born. It was a longer than usual Budget with a lot of detail and overall some pretty good news for a whole range of people.
I have been lobbied a lot about the transition of people over to Universal Credit and so it was welcome news that £1.7bn is to be injected into this huge transformation of our benefit system to make the move easier. I have paid several visits to the Worthing and Brighton benefit centres this year particularly to see how ready they were for UC coming into effect in Worthing and Adur as from July this year. On my last visit I took volunteers and clients from local food banks to see how the new system could benefit them and how better liaison with the benefit offices could speed things up in particular. Locally I am pleased to say that there appear to have been very few complaints and it certainly looks like a more streamlined service with officials from the benefits office, housing and the local council working together much better.
There was also welcome news in the Budget on small business rates which will particularly benefit some of the smaller shops on the high street who are having a tough time. The reduction in business rates by a third over the next 2 years will mean over 90% of small businesses paying £8000 a year less which is obviously significant. I am also pleased that the UK is taking the lead in taxing digital service companies where the EU and the US are still only talking about doing something. Some of the digital giants making things tough for traditional high street retailers or acting irresponsibly on social media platforms yet paying little in tax will now be forced to make a bigger contribution to UK plc.
The additional £20bn a year for the NHS was confirmed and fully funded with £2bn going to address the problem of mental health in schools, in no small part exacerbated by the all-pervading influence of social media. There will be an additional £400m for school capital expenditure which is a welcome start but we still need to do a lot better on fair funding of schools as I took issue with the Chancellor in our briefing meeting afterwards. But overall a pretty good Budget for the people of East Worthing & Shoreham.