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Westminster Report by Southend West MP Anna Firth.

Westminster Report by Southend West MP Anna Firth.

Westminster Report by Southend West MP Anna Firth.

Westminster Report by Southend West MP Anna Firth.

WEDNESDAY March 15 saw the first full Budget presented in the House of Commons since 2021.

Meeting with local businesses and residents to discuss the cost-of-living pressures and how these have impacted everyday life, I was determined for the voices of Leigh to be heard at the highest level of Government as the Treasury drew its plans together.

Therefore, I was delighted to see Jeremy Hunt MP respond to these concerns and deliver a serious budget for serious times, injecting confidence, credibility, and stability into the economy whilst supporting the ambitions of sustainable growth.

Progress is already visible, with the UK now predicted to avoid recession and inflation set to fall by over two-thirds.

Inflation is the absolute enemy of growth and prosperity – it destroys jobs, depletes our savings, and means that the money in our pockets does not go as far as it used to.

The other big problem with inflation is that it means that Government spending doesn’t go as far either. Inflation of 10% means having to increase public spending by an extra 10% every year just to maintain our current level of public services.

Sadly, I am old enough to remember the mid-to-late 70’s when the Labour Party were in power and inflation peaked at 23%, making us all poorer and tightening the squeeze on our pocket.

Franky, that is unacceptable, and I subsequently welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to tackle this in the long-term. However, I am also aware that constituents were looking for – and needed – help in the immediate.

Following this, I very much welcome the huge package of support worth £94 billion to help with this rising cost-of-living, which means that the average household in Leigh will receive £3,300 of support.

Through the new measures announced in the Budget, residents will be saving £160 on their energy bills whilst we get through the last of this winter, and our hardworking small businesses will also save an average of £200 on their fuel bills through the very welcome freezing of fuel duty and the extension of the 5p cut.

Our Labour-controlled City Council has allowed our roads to fall into a truly parlous state and so drivers in Leigh will especially welcome the extra £309,000 to mend potholes.

Reforms to childcare worth up to £6,500 per year will help local families with one of the most significant costs they face, extending 30 hours of childcare a week to working parents of children aged 9 months to 4 years, so they can return to work.

To help boost this area of support, our brilliant foster- and shared-lives carers will also save £450 a year through increased tax relief whilst Leigh’s fabulous nurseries such as The Old Station will benefit from a major funding uplift to deliver the existing free hours offers.

Community pharmacies, like our brilliant Belfairs Pharmacy, will also benefit from changes to the VAT system, which will boost their finances and continue to ease pressure on GPs.

Our national-leading, Palace Theatre, Cliff’s Pavilion and Museum collections will benefit from additional higher rates of tax relief for a further 2 years, and brilliant local charities like the Citizens Advice Bureau, Welcome to the UK and HARP homeless charity will benefit from the over £100 million of support to help them with their increased bills.

I am also incredibly proud that my constituency is home to some amazing national and international businesses, such as Olympus Key-Med and Esslab, as well as 3,700 small and medium sized businesses.

The new annual Investment Allowance and the capital incentives set out in the budget will benefit 99% of Leigh’s businesses, and mean more investment, more jobs, more growth for not just our local area, but Essex as a whole.

Indeed, Southend and Leigh are perfectly situated to become a real driving force for growth.

Through new investment, we could become a world-leading life science hub, with businesses and our brilliant SE college working together to train our young people with the skills this country needs to remain competitive throughout the 21st century.

Finally, of course, cutting duty on draught beer, a Brexit benefit, will help dozens of brilliant pubs across Leigh, including the Crooked Billet, Peterboat, and Broadway.

We still have more to do, but despite enormous global challenges, the economy is looking to improve as we halve inflation, grow the economy, and reduce debt to create better-paid jobs and opportunity for everyone across Leigh.

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