Ru2Drunk

On Saturday night I went to L2, a night club in Truro. Sadly, no dancing was involved! L2 provides a safe space and base from which first aid and care is provided to people who have got into difficulty, often but not always, as a result of drinking too much or taking drugs.

I spent sometime with the great team of local people that tries to ensure that people enjoying the nightlife of Truro are safe. Our regular local police officers are supported by two special constables, two marshals funded by Truro City Council and two SWAST first responders employed by Cornwall Resus to provide first aid, as well as a team of Street Pastors. I met the experienced security men at each of the licensed premises and saw first hand their good working relationships. Radios enable the team to stay in touch and provide assistance to people who have injured themselves or others.I have spent sometime in Falmouth where there is a similar set up, with a group of people, professionals and volunteers bringing their passion for public service and expertise to work together for the common good.

Many revellers really appreciate the reassurance and kindness of the team. Many people were helped, including young tourists who had missed their last bus and were looking for some where to sleep for the night as well as street homeless people.

These partnerships are effective, each Saturday people have been treated in the centre of Truro & Falmouth rather than A&E at Treliske and anti social behaviour deescalated to prevent an arrest. Alcohol fuelled crime is still too high, and I welcome plans for the use of breatherlsisers in licensed premises and would like to see mental healthcare professionals working alongside police in the town centres as they do in Plymouth.

 

A country where people are paid more, the Government takes less of their money and we therefore have to spend less on welfare

A country where people are paid more, the Government takes less of their money and we therefore have to spend less on welfare
National Living Wage Image

After each Budget, I do a blog summarising the latest data about how our economy is doing and the Chancellor’s key announcements.

How is our economy doing?

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility predicts that our economy will grow by 2.4% in 2015. Although that’s slightly lower than they forecast in March, it’s faster than the American or German economies are predicted to grow. Indeed, for the second year in a row, Britain is expected to have the strongest economic growth of any major advanced economy.

Thanks to this growth, employment is predicted to continue rising.

And the deficit is predicted to fall to £69.5 billion this year, less than half the £153.5 billion we inherited in 2010.

In other words, we have turned the corner – our economy is growing, more people are in work and the deficit is falling – but the Government is still borrowing too much because it’s still spending too much.

Some on the left want an end to austerity. They seem to think that the Government can go on spending money it does not have. Whilst I understand their concern about the impact of cuts, you only have to look at what’s happening in Greece to see that if you put these decisions off you end up having to make much more damaging cuts in the end. We need to get back into the black. It’s simply not fare to pass on this debt to our children and grandchildren.

Getting Britain back in the black

To eliminate the deficit and start running a surplus (which is what governments should do when times are good – Labour’s key mistake was to run a deficit in the boom before the banking crisis, which meant that when the economy went into a deep recession we ended up with a record deficit; if they’d been running a surplus beforehand, we wouldn’t be having to make painful decisions now), the Government needs to cut spending and/or increase tax receipts by a further £37 billion over this Parliament.

Some people had predicted that to achieve this the Government would have to cut deeper than it did in the last Parliament. The first piece of good news the Chancellor announced was that because tax receipts have been higher than predicted and because the Government is raising money by selling off the banks we had to bail out, he can get this country back into the black by 2019-20 whilst cutting no faster than he did in the last Parliament.

The key political choice is where to find this £37 billion. At the Election, we set out two key differences between how we would do this and Labour’s approach. First, we would not increase taxes like income tax, national insurance or VAT. And second, we would save £12 billion from the welfare budget, meaning we would have to make smaller cuts to public services.

The Chancellor kept both of those promises and set out in detail how he will save £12 billion from the welfare budget as well as raising £5 billion from tackling tax evasion and avoidance (the remaining £20 billion will come from departmental spending and will be identified via a Spending Review this autumn).

Tackling aggressive tax avoidance and evasion.

The Chancellor announced a number of measures to tackle aggressive tax avoidance and evasion, which taken together are predicted to raise an extra £5 billion a year. In particular, the Government will provide HMRC with an extra £750 million to go after tax fraud and end the abuse of non-domicile tax status.

This is a crucial part of the Budget package. As Conservatives, we believe in low taxes, but we are equally passionate about ensuring that people and businesses pay their fair share.

Moving to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare economy

When we came to power in 2010 we inherited a low wage, high tax, and high welfare economy. The UK has 1% of the world’s population, it generates 4% of the world’s income but it is responsible for 7% of the world’s welfare spending. As Conservatives, we want to move to a country where people are paid more, the Government takes less of their money and we therefore have to spend less on welfare.

Low welfare. Much of the welfare budget goes to the elderly and the disabled. The Chancellor made it clear that he won’t be cutting that. The state pension will continue to be increased in line with prices, wages or 2.5% whichever is higher, other pensioner benefits will be protected and he will not be cutting, taxing or means testing disability benefits.

But some of the welfare budget goes to people who are unemployed and some of it goes to people who are in work but relatively lowly paid and therefore need help in the form of housing benefit and/or tax credits. In 1980, working age welfare accounted for 8% of government spending; today it accounts for 13%. It is this that we want to reduce. The Chancellor announced a whole series of changes but here are some of the key ones:

– people aged 18 to 21 will have to work or be in education, not on out-of-work benefits and, with the exception of vulnerable young people, they will lose their entitlement to housing benefit. 18 year olds who get a job can rarely afford their own place – why should those who are not working be able to?

– working age benefits, including tax credits, will be frozen for four years;

– the level of earnings at which a family’s tax credits and universal credit start to be withdrawn will be reduced and the rate at which tax credits are withdrawn will be increased so that help is focused on those most in need;

– Families who have a third or subsequent child after April 2017 will not receive additional tax credit or universal credit. Support for families who make a new claim to universal credit after this date will also be limited to two children and we will make similar changes to housing benefit;

– Support for mortgage interest payments will be turned from a benefit into a loan;

– Rents in social housing will be reduced by 1% a year for four years. This will help to control the housing benefit bill, but it’s also good news for most council and housing association tenants;

– those families living in social housing with incomes of over £40,000 a year in London and over £30,000 a year elsewhere will have to pay a market rent rather than a subsidised one; and

– the cap on the total amount of benefits an out of work family can receive – introduced by the Coalition Government after some families were receiving more than £50,000 a year under Labour – will be reduced from £26,000 to £23,000 in London and £20,000 everywhere else.

Low taxes. Rather than take money from people in tax and then give it back in tax credits, the simplest way to help working people is to let them keep more of the money they work hard to earn.

At the Election, we promised to increase the personal allowance – the amount of money you can earn before you start paying income tax – to £12,500 and the threshold at which people start paying the 40p rate to £50,000. The Chancellor made a start on delivering both of those promises, raising the personal allowance to £11,000 and the 40p threshold to £43,000. As a result, 29 million people will pay less in income tax.

High pay. As Alistair Darling has argued, tax credits are “subsidising lower wages in a way that was never intended”. Employers can get away with paying their staff less than they need to live on because they know the Government will top those salaries up. That can’t be right.

People who work hard in low paid jobs deserve a pay rise and that’s what they’re going to get. The Chancellor announced that he is introducing a new compulsory National Living Wage for everyone aged 25 and over. It will start next April at £7.20 an hour – a significant increase on the current minimum wage – and it will increase to £9 an hour by 2020.

I’m absolutely delighted by this announcement. It’s something I’ve long campaigned for. Two and a half million people will benefit with those on the minimum wage seeing their pay rise by a third or over £5,000 a year over this Parliament.

And to ensure businesses can afford to pay low-paid staff more, the Chancellor is cutting corporation tax to 19% in 2017 and to 18% by 2020. This won’t only help existing business in the UK, it sends out a message around the world that this country is a great place to base your business. He’s also increasing the Employment Allowance – which reduces the National Insurance Contributions businesses have to pay – to £3,000 in 2016.

Other Budget measures

3 million more apprenticeships – another way of raising pay is improving our productivity. Key to this is having a more highly-skilled workforce. It is to our national shame that we are almost the only advanced country in the world where the skills of our 16-24 year olds are no better than our 55-64 year-olds. Our education reforms in the last Parliament have begun to address the problem and we’re going further in this Parliament by tackling schools that are coasting, but there’s also a role for employers to play. Many firms do a brilliant job training their employees, but too many large companies leave it to others. The Chancellor is therefore introducing an apprenticeship levy on all large firms to help fund 3 million more apprenticeships.

More money for the NHS. Most government departments will see reductions in their budgets, but there are two that are seeing increases. One is our precious NHS. At the Election, we promised to provide an additional £8 billion by 2020 over and above the rate of inflation – a pledge Labour refused to match – and yesterday the Chancellor confirmed that we would do just that.

And more money for defence. And the second is our armed forces. The Chancellor announced that the defence budget will increase in real terms every year and that we will meet the NATO pledge to spend 2% of our national income on defence right the way through until 2020.

1% annual pay rises in the public sector. The Chancellor acknowledged that “there has already been a period of restraint” in public sector pay. That’s an understatement – many public sector workers have seen their salaries increase by less than the rate of inflation over the last few years and had to increase their pension contributions at the same time. But he was right to point out that at a time when budgets are tight more generous pay awards would mean more job losses in the public sector. Nonetheless the news that public sector pay will increase by 1% a year for the next four years will be one of the least popular elements of the Budget.

A fairer deal for motorists. In the last 25 years, France has built more than 2,500 miles of motorway; we have built just 300. In the last Parliament, we increased spending on our roads network, but we need a long-term solution. The Government is therefore returning Vehicle Excise Duty to its original purpose – from 2020, the tax on people’s cars will go into a new fund to improve the roads they drive on. And fuel duty will remain frozen this year.

Only millionaires to pay Inheritance Tax. The wish to pass something on to our children when we die is about the most basic human aspiration there is. We have long had an inheritance tax in this country, but it was designed to be paid only by the very rich. In recent years, as property prices have risen by much more than inflation, more and more families have found themselves paying the tax. If we don’t do something, the number will double over the next five years.

So from 2017 we will phase in a new £175,000 allowance for your home when you leave it to your children or grandchildren on top of the existing £325,000 threshold. Both allowances will be transferrable to your spouse or partner and if you downsize you won’t lose out. We will taper the relief away for estates worth more than £2 million so the very rich don’t benefit. The result is that people will be able to pass up to £1 million to their children with the Government taking a penny – exactly as we promised. And it will be paid for by reducing pension’s tax relief for the very wealthy.

Conclusion

This Budget tells you two important things about today’s Conservative Party.

First, we mean to keep the promises we made – to take the tough decisions necessary to get Britain back in the black, to tackle tax avoidance, to cut income tax for millions of people, to create 3 million new apprenticeships, to give our precious NHS the funds it needs and to take the family home out of inheritance tax.

But second and equally importantly, we will deal with the deficit in a way that is fair with those with the broadest shoulders bearing the greatest burden. The richest are paying a greater share of tax than they were in 2010. And as a result of this Budget, someone in low paid work will get paid more and pay less tax – and be confident that they will be better off than someone who chooses not to work.

Comment on this blog

Fair Funding for our local Police

It was good to meet earlier this week with fellow Devon & Cornwall MPs, PCC Tony Hogg and Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer. I do not want to see the number of police officers in our communities reduce. Our local police have coped well with reduced funding thanks to their professionalism and dedication. I understand that as D&C is an efficiently run police force it will be difficult to make further savings without reducing police officers.

As I don’t want to see this happen, I have met with ministers to push for a review of the way the national funding for police is allocated to make sure we get our fair share. This is going ahead this summer and will be implemented in 2016. At the moment, the allocation formula does not fully recognise the current levels of student households or numbers of tourists visiting our area.

So that police numbers can be maintained before the new formula comes in, I support the PCC and his plans to increase the local police precept. I believe this money raised in Cornwall must be spent in Cornwall on neighbourhood policing. I also think Cornwall Councillors should actively consider using more extensively, the new powers they have on licensing.

Armed Forces Day

This weekend brings Armed Forces Day, offering us the opportunity to celebrate and pay respect to those who serve or who have served our country.

A survey published earlier this week conducted by the country’s oldest national military charity, SSFA shows that 68% of people  think “we do not give enough support to those who have served their country in the Armed Forces”. Listening to the maiden speech of my colleague the Conservative MP for Plymouth, Johnny Mercer I was struck by one statistic: “In 2012 ….more soldiers and veterans killed themselves than were killed in operational service in defence of the realm.” While Johnny spoke very positively of the work undertaken by the last Government to support our Armed Services men and women, including the Military Covenant, clearly more needs to be done.

As a region that has a proud tradition of people serving in our armed services, we have many people in active service and veterans working and living in Cornwall.  I have seen first hand the great work that our Armed Forces do here to support their personnel and the many local charities that support veterans. I want to make sure that our local authority, Cornwall Council, learns from the recent Local Government Ombudsman’s report and fully implements the Military Covenant that it has signed.

I have written to the Leader of Cornwall Council and asked him to enable all staff to have awareness training about the Military Covenant as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As far as I am aware Cornwall Council has money allocated to staff training and there are excellent, local social enterprises such as ActivePlus who could undertake the training. Given how many people Cornwall Council employ and have contact with everyday, it is vitally important they deliver their duty of care.

The Fight against Sepsis

The heart breaking article about William Mead in last week’s edition has prompted me to write about Sepsis. In the last parliament, with the UK Sepsis Trust Chief Executive & Consultant in Critical Care, Ron Daniels, we set up the APPG on Sepsis.

The APPG has made real progress over the past two years raising awareness of Sepsis and securing a range of actions to prevent avoidable deaths. The Health Ombudsman did a very hard hitting report about the scale of the problem and a Parliamentary Select Committee has followed up on the Ombudsman’s report.

Earlier this year, I welcomed the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP proposed measures to prevent deaths and serious harm from Sepsis that included an audit of every GP surgery in England on their effectiveness at diagnosing the condition, which was due to take place by the end of March this year.

Plans also included the creation of new NICE clinical guidelines, the introduction of an incentive scheme for hospitals, the launch of a public awareness campaign and the development of a new diagnostic tool for GPs to recognise symptoms in children under five.

Each year, Sepsis claims around 31,000 lives including around 1,000 cases of children under 5 – more than bowel cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. The cost of treating people with sepsis is estimated to be £2 billion a year. Significant savings of lives could be made with early diagnosis and treatment.

Jeremy Hunt MP said he wants to make tackling sepsis as important to the NHS as tackling the superbugs Clostridium Difficile and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

“Sepsis is a devastating condition that kills more than 80 people in England every day. It’s time to apply the lessons we’ve already learnt on patient safety and reduce the number of lives that are needlessly lost to this silent killer.”

Since being re-elected, I have contacted Jeremy Hunt MP requesting a progress report on the promised actions. Locally, the KCCG have assured me plans are in place to raise awareness and the implementation of NHS staff training.

 

The Highlight of My Week

A highlight of my week was spending Friday at the Royal Cornwall Show. It was great to catch up with some of our excellent local food producers and discuss our long-term vision for the future of British farming, working with industry to develop a 25 year plan to grow more, buy more and sell more British food.

I was pleased to hear that our plans to enable farmers to smooth their profits for tax purposes over five years, up from the current two years, to help counter the impact of volatility in the prices farmers receive for their crops, meat and milk will help. So will our plans to liberate farmers from red tape by coordinating all visits through a single Farm Inspection Taskforce, which will involve farmers themselves and use data from existing industry schemes, such as Red Tractor.

At the request of Cornwall Young Farmers, I joined a panel of inspiring women in agriculture and highlighted our plans to treble the number of apprenticeships in food, farming and agri-tech, as part of our plan to secure three million more apprenticeships.  Farming and food production is changing fast, opening up new opportunities but we all agreed more work needs to be done in explaining these opportunities. Alongside this, continuing to promote maths and science qualifications in primary and secondary schools so more young people can benefit from not only the enjoyment of studying these subjects but the choices they will open up for them.

Over the next few months, I will be working hard with our inspiring local food producers and even more inspiring Ruth Huxley from Cornwall Food and Drink to make sure we are making the most of the new Great British Food Unit that will help trademark and promote local foods around the world and back British food at home, by guaranteeing that all central government departments purchase food to British standards of production by the end of the Parliament. We will also help consumers to buy British by pushing for country of origin labelling in Europe, particularly for dairy products.