The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, recently released the Autumn Budget and I am pleased to say that there were many announcements that will come as good news for people in Wealden.
I, along with many others in Wealden, rely heavily on my car to get from A to B and so I am glad that the Chancellor announced another freeze on fuel duty, keeping the tax the same for the longest period in forty years. Since 2010, the Conservative government will have saved the average car driver £850 and the average van driver £2,100 compared to Labour’s escalator plans.
In addition to this, the personal allowance is being increased to £11,850 in the 2018-2019 tax year. This will mean that people in Wealden will have more in their pockets, with the typical basic rate taxpayer will be £1,075 a year better off in comparison to 2010. The threshold for paying the 40 per cent rate will also be increased from £45,000 to £46,350.
An announcement that I was particularly pleased to see included in the Budget was the freeze on alcohol duty. This is great news for our local pubs and breweries as well as for the fruitful Wealden wine industry. I campaigned hard for a freeze in alcohol duty and I know that this decision will be welcomed by Wealden’s fourteen vineyards. British wine rivals the very best of continental Europe and so it is great to see the Chancellor rewarding the industry as well as the millions of people across the country who enjoy Sussex wines. With tax accounting for more than fifty per cent of the average family’s Christmas alcohol shop, the freeze in alcohol duty brings some very welcome festive cheer.
Taken together, these Budget policies will mean that people in Wealden will have a little more to take home to their families each month; which comes as especially good news in the run up to Christmas.
Finally, as a STEM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Maths) ambassador, I have been concerned about the skills shortage in the UK in these areas. It is imperative that we address this, not least because it is estimated this gap costs organisations over £2bn per year. As such, I welcome the news that millions of pounds worth of funding will be made available for training in these areas and schools will be given £600 for every additional pupil taking A-Level or core maths.
This funding will also help to reduce the significant gender gap in students studying STEM subjects. At A-Level, only 36 per cent of those studying STEM subjects are girls. Research shows that women who study maths at A-level, earn up to 23 per cent more than those who don’t. Given this, I hope to work with schools and academies across Wealden to encourage more girls to study maths and other STEM subjects.