Local politicians and business leaders have been giving their views on today’s Budget, delivered by Chancellor George Osborne.
Mr Osborne announced a cut in fuel duty of 1p per litre, paid for by extra taxes on North Sea oil companies. He also confirmed an increase in the personal tax allowance, a new shared-equity scheme to help more first-time buyers, and a larger than expected cut in corporation tax.
Funding for a new rail link between Manchester’s Piccadilly and Victoria stations was also revealed. But we’ll have to wait until next year to find out about projects closer to home, such as a new Diggle Station, and the reopening of the two disused Standedge rail tunnels.
Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams said: “Although we’ll need to look more closely at the numbers my first impression of this budget is that it contains certain sweeteners such as the loan to first time buyers, a reduction in income tax and dropping the idea of increasing fuel duty but it does nothing for the people of Oldham who are suffering now.”
The Labour MP went on: “These are ‘micro’ economic measures tinkering at the edges of a major economic crisis and the Chancellor is forecasting yet another drop in our economic growth as other countries are forecasting growth.”
Ms Abrahams continued: “This budget doesn’t help people in Oldham who are left in dilapidated housing with no prospect of moving after Housing Market Renewal Funding was pulled or those just made unemployed, especially our young people, as the UK’s youth unemployment approaches the one million mark. In short these Tory-led cuts continue to be too deep and too fast.”
The Liberal Democrat leader of Oldham Council, Howard Sykes, was more positive, perhaps not surprisingly given the role of Lib Dems in the coalition government at Westminster.
He said: “The budget has provided some welcome changes, reducing fuel duty by 1p and the planned 4p rise in April being scrapped, the fuel escalator is also scrapped until 2015, all will reduce costs to industry, the public sector and citizens.”
Cllr Sykes described the creation of 21 new Enterprise Zones across the country, which will offer cheaper business rates and other benefits to try to encourage manufacturing, as “particularly welcome.” He said they would provide “huge opportunities for investment and jobs.” Salford is thought likely to be the closest zone to us.
He added: “As always the devil is in the detail, but at this stage the budget looks like a welcome shot in the arm for business, the public sector and the citizens of this borough in a very difficult and testing environment.”
Gavin Wheeldon, founder and boss of Delph-based Applied Language Solutions, also welcomed Mr Osborne’s speech, saying: “Overall, it was a very good budget that addressed all areas.”
Mr Wheeldon said: “The key message that should be taken away is that it was very pro-business. Osborne positioned the UK as an attractive base for European headquarters and has really put us back on the map as a place to do business with.”
He added: “There is a growing need for employment incentives as more public sectors jobs go and putting more funding into apprenticeship schemes and work experience placements to help the private sector take up the slack is welcome news.”