“We are used to waiting for hours or even days for the true nature of Budget measures to emerge from scrutiny of the details. But first impressions are important: and this appears to be a Budget that will offer a few crumbs, but little long-term hope, to lower and middle income families in south Bristol.
“Having worked to manage people’s advance expectations of this Budget, the government is very keen to portray it as one that will ‘slow the pace’ of welfare cuts, as if to imply this is a kinder Budget than people feared. The truth is that many measures it contains will be painful to working families.
Productivity & wages
“Productivity has stagnated since 2007, unprecedented in the post-war period. Economic growth depends on productivity improving and yet despite over-optimistic forecasts, it remained stubbornly low under the Tory-led coalition government.
“Increased productivity is the key to getting the deficit down, and to raising wages and living standards which in turn will help bring down welfare bills.
“Businesses of all shapes and sizes across Bristol and the West country need support to boost their productivity. The cut in corporation tax should help businesses invest and create more jobs, but time will tell whether it leads to the sustainable jobs and higher wages that we need.
“It is right that, having viciously opposed the minimum wage when it was introduced by Labour in 1999, the Tory government has now embraced the principle, although rather than implementing a genuine Living Wage the Chancellor appears to be trying to redefine the Living Wage.
“South Bristol needs more high-skills apprenticeships and, whilst we await the detail, moves to introduce a levy on large businesses to help fund apprenticeships are welcome.
Inheritance Tax and Income Tax
“Raising the personal income tax allowance by £400 from next year gives crumbs to those on lower incomes whilst Inheritance Tax cuts heap feasts elsewhere. It got loud cheers from Tory MPs on the green benches, but cutting inheritance tax should not be a priority at this time.
“As I pointed out to the Prime Minister moments before the Budget announcement, Bristol South residents are still waiting for the long-delayed rollout of the government’s last grand welfare reform plan, Universal Credit, so its future plans must be viewed with caution.
“By limiting some benefits to two children, the Chancellor wants to make children live in poverty as a punishment for being born into large families.
“The welfare announcements made need greater scrutiny, but it appears the Tory Chancellor is placing the heaviest burden on low-paid working people.
University maintenance grants
“Whilst there is evidence to show the introduction of tuition fees has not deterred young people from applying for university, I am deeply concerned about the plan to remove maintenance grants for students from lower income families.
“Of all 650 constituencies Bristol South sends the second lowest number of its young people to university. Whilst the reasons for this are complex, I fear this measure will snuff out the ambitions of many youngsters who aspire to go to university to work hard to earn a degree.
“The Chancellor talked about ‘putting power into the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, but however hard you listened there was again not a word or nod in the direction of Bristol and the West Country. We need a Western Powerhouse.
“Allowing shops to open for a few more hours on a Sunday looks like a headline-seeking distraction technique. It won’t tackle the productivity puzzle. It is answering a question the Budget wasn’t asked and didn’t need to address.”