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NEXT week is George Osborne’s Budget for 2016, the first regular budget of the new Government. So, what can we expect and what would I like to see in the budget to help local people?
Firstly, the economic context. We still have strong growth in the economy, record numbers of jobs and people in employment, but tax revenues are probably lower than forecast and there is huge uncertainty in the global economy. The UK’s economy is on the right track, but there is still a lot more to do. As a country we still have over £1.5 trillion of debt and each year we are spending £70 billion more than we earn so I expect this to be a long way short of a give-away budget.
There are some things that I believe would be hugely positive that I would like to see the Chancellor announce next week. Firstly, we need to tackle the causes of the gender pay gap head on. We cannot get away from the fact that women often take career breaks for maternity and childcare. What I believe we can do is give more support to employers for women returning to the workforce after an extended career break for maternity, or indeed men who return to the workforce after an extended paternity career break. This could come in the form of additional tax relief on training in the same way that R&D tax relief is available at the moment. As many more women than men will be in this category, I believe it may help towards closing the gender pay gap.
Secondly, I would also like to see more pension support for the self-employed. Within the next five years there will be more than 40,000 self-employed workers in Wiltshire. Currently self-employed workers do not benefit from the Government’s new auto-enrolment pension scheme and could therefore face lower pensions in retirement and be forced to rely on additional benefits to top up their income. We have to recognise the huge risks involved with starting new businesses and being self-employed as well as the changing nature of the labour market. I do not think it is fair that self-employed people cannot benefit from new auto-enrolment pensions and do not accrue as much pension support from the state as other employed workers.
These are two specific technical measures that I would like to see to help local people. I would warmly welcome an additional reduction in beer duty to support local pubs and breweries and no change to pensions, which will reduce the incentive to save for retirement. I have also written to the Chancellor to ask for a concession to be made to those ‘WASPI’ women effected by the equalisation of the State Pension. I encourage all women born in the 1950s to get in touch with me if you are unsure of the impact on you.
What measures would you like to see in next week’s budget to support local business or our community? Let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org