What can the Chancellor’s budget do to help here?

The upcoming Budget on 3 March is an opportunity for the Chancellor to ease the issues families, the self-employed and business owners face. I know what I want to see, what about you? 

Two things have cheered me up recently – the vaccine rollout is going well and Cadbury Dairy Milk is coming home following Mondelez’s decision to invest a further £15 million at the Bournville factory, securing and increasing jobs.

It’s great to have some good news but I’m afraid there is still a great deal of bad news and things to be concerned about.

We know that in 2018 there were 6171 households in this constituency in fuel poverty and that number will have increased significantly, especially with so many working from home over the winter and having higher fuel bills as a result. I was appalled to hear that the Energy Price Cap is returning to pre-pandemic levels, resulting in higher gas and electric bills. The government talks a lot about its levelling up agenda, but this is ratcheting up of the worst kind.

On the Works and Pensions Select Committee we have been looking, in detail, at the impact of the pandemic on Universal Credit. The number of claimants has doubled. Last Year’s £20 uplift in Universal Credit was a lifeline for families facing severe financial hardship, helping to pay for bills, food and other essentials. The government plans to remove this uplift at the end of April. The cost of maintaining it would be about 2% of the amount the government claims to have spent on pandemic support overall, so it’s pretty low especially when compared with the £37 billion cut from social security spending since 2010.

Unemployment is at a 5 year high and here in Selly Oak constituency, it is particularly worrying that the local rather is even higher than the national average at 7.4% and youth unemployment is in this area is also growing faster than the national figure.

This constituency is creative and enterprising, there are lots of self-employed people and small businesses – a large number have received little or no financial support from the government. The Federation of Small Business says that 250,000 small businesses are on the brink of closure. I fear too many of those will be in our area if things don’t change.

The Chancellor’s must tackle some of these problems in this Budget on 3rd March.

For business there needs to be certainty and practical help with things like rent and cash flow as well as realistic borrowing opportunities. Jobs can be saved if an extension to the furlough scheme is provided for those businesses which won’t be able to reopen right away.

Before covid our economy benefitted from increasing number of people who are self-employed. They have been treated unfairly and badly let down by the government.

With energy bills so high, now would be a good time to make homes more energy efficient. The Chancellor should embark on a massive “green home” initiative, involving re-skilling those unemployed to undertake the improvements. It would also make a significant contribution to the net zero target, designed to combat climate change.

House prices continue to rise for those lucky enough to own their own homes but that aspiration is just beyond too many people. It’s time for a proper house building programme, especially more family homes. That’s how to get unemployed builders and other tradesmen back to work.

A lot of public money is spent on research, development and innovation and this is where new, high quality jobs will come from but too much of that public money is spent in the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge, London and the South East. It’s time to allocate a much fairer share of funding for research and innovation to the West Midlands. It’s simple really, give us our fair share and we’ll create the jobs.

The Chancellor is going to be spending a lot of our money in the coming months, it’s important he spends it wisely and on things that can really make a difference.  

What do you want to see the Chancellor do? Are you a small business owner or self-employed? Are you in work. Is there something that you think can really make a difference or really ought to be tackled?

I want to get the widest possible picture of what needs to be done in order to support and grow our economy and protect jobs and businesses. Please let me have your thoughts

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