Mercury column – December 2016

We have just had the Autumn Statement. Traditionally this Parliamentary occasion, required by law, set out forecasts for the British economy in the years’ ahead and outlined the Government’s spending plans. It was the Budget the following spring that set out tax plans. Yet, for many years the Autumn Statement has operated as a mini-budget with Chancellors taking the opportunity to set out a range of economic measures. Last week Philip Hammond announced this was the last Autumn Statement, as next year it will become the Budget!

The Chancellor made it clear that his concentration is focused on helping ordinary working families, those just managing from month to month, and to ensure our economy is fighting fit as we begin the process to leave the European Union.

Before I was a Government Minister I campaigned for a freeze in fuel duty, something I continue to champion. It’s pleasing to see this frozen for the seventh year, in total saving a car driver £130 a year. The increase in income tax thresholds means that we get to keep more in our wage packets, and many people in lower paid jobs will be taken out of the tax system altogether. Plus there is another confirmed increase in the Living Wage, making sure that it always pays to work.

Perhaps the biggest announcement was the increased investment in transport infrastructure. Maybe the Chancellor had in mind the continued lobbying from Norfolk MPs for more improvements to the region’s road network. With a large chunk of money set aside to tackle road safety and congestion, Highways England really has no reason to delay the much-needed upgrade of the A47 and Acle Straight. I and my colleagues will continue to remind them that their self-imposed delays are unacceptable and that real action is needed now.

Another role recent Chancellors have fulfilled at this time of year is to have Santa at a Downing Street party for disadvantaged children. This year we can all act as Father Christmas for some special children in our area. I am supporting the Benjamin Foundation’s Give a Gift Appeal delivering presents to young carers in our area. You can support the appeal by dropping unwrapped presents to my constituency office on Church Plain. I hope you and all friends and family, as well as all our fellow residents, have a very merry Christmas, a happy New Year and best wishes for a great 2017!