Recovering from the financial crash was never going to be easy, and the latest growth forecasts suggest there’s a way to go. But there was good news for the economy in last week’s budget. We have the lowest unemployment since the 1970s and rising wages for the lowest paid. We’ve taken nearly 1.3 million people out of income tax altogether, and, as of next year, debt as a share of GDP will start falling.
Now’s the time to start laying foundations for a stronger economic future: for people in their 30s as their careers develop, people in their 20s as they set out in the world of work, teenagers wondering what life will hold, and smaller children like mine dreaming of being ballerinas and footballers. The Chancellor recognises this, and has set out a budget that includes investment in technology, infrastructure, research and development, 5G, broadband, and maths and science teaching, to give people the skills and resources they need for the jobs of tomorrow.
As well as jobs, people want houses. I hope the abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers for properties under £300,000 will help people in this area – where prices are high – get on the ladder. And the Government has committed to making sure 300,000 new homes a year are built. More homes for this area is a worry when roads are at a standstill, so we must get our share of the £5bn fund for infrastructure to support development.
As well as looking ahead, the Chancellor has listened to people’s worries about the here and now. There’s extra money for the NHS this winter and over the next two years—part of the Government’s £8 billion commitment to increase funding over this Parliament—and an extra £3.5 billion of capital. In Kent, we’ll be bidding for our share of that: for a health centre in Maidstone; a contribution to a new hospital in east Kent; and a new medical school for Kent and Medway.
To get the good jobs, housing and public services we want, we must look forward – not backwards – and build the foundations for the economy of the future.