THE town’s MP has welcomed what she sees as a raft of postive measures in this week’s budget, but opponents say local people won’t feel any real benefit.
Amber Rudd was quick to praise chancellor George Osborne’s so-called “budget for growth”, which did the following things:
n Raised the personal tax allowance so people will only be taxed on anything they earn over £8,015.
n Cut petrol prices by one pence per litre and scrapped the fuel escalator which pegged fuel duty rises above inflation.
n Confirmed increases on cigarettes and alcohol - from Sunday a pint of beer will cost four pence more, a bottle of wine 15 pence more and a bottle of spirits 54 pence more. Cigarettes will cost 50 pence more for a pack of 20.
n Cut red tape and corporation tax in a bid to boost businesses and create jobs.
n Set aside funding for 40,000 new apprenticeships and 100,000 work placements.
n Set aside £100 million for repairing potholes.
“Last year’s budget brought Britain back from the brink of bankruptcy,” Ms Rudd said. “This year’s sets out plans to back enterprise and get Britain making things again. By cutting fuel duty immediately and cutting income tax for millions, the Chancellor has done what he can to help families now. This budget has put fuel into the tank of our economy.
“Hastings has some of the lowest wages in the country, I welcome the changes to take low- paid people out of tax altogether and businesses will welcome the changes which will help them achieve the growth we need.”
She will fight for Hastings to become one of the 21 enterprise zones the chancellor intends to create, Ms Rudd added.
Local Lib Dem Nick Perry claimed the decision to increase the amount people earn before tax was thanks to his party’s role in the Coalition Government. From April, people will now not pay any tax on the first £833 they earn every month.
But with the UK economy not predicted to grow as quickly as first thought, Cllr Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council, was unimpressed with the budget. He said: “There is very little good news for Hastings people in this budget. There was an increase in the personal allowance but we are already paying for that by the increase in VAT and the 5.5 per cent inflation rate, particularly on things like fuel, food and clothes which are racing ahead. Any relief will make very little difference to the everyday living standards of ordinary people.”
Reports suggested that some local petrol stations had put prices up on Wednesday morning in anticipation of the fuel cuts announced later that day, although retailers said any rise was a coincidence.
Brett McLean, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses here in Hastings, said not enough had been done to encourage firms to create jobs, while the Taxpayer’s Alliance said the Government could have done more to help ordinary families, and warned some of the measures could see electricity bills rise sharply.