Growth, housing and sensible finance were the three themes of last week’s Budget.
The UK has maintained a prolonged period of growth since we emerged from the great recession of 2008. Since 2010 1,000 new jobs have been created every day and we are in the strong position of having record levels of employment and an unemployment rate lower than at any stage since 1975 and half that of our largest EU neighbour.
However to ensure everyone in work sees their living standards rise we need the economy to become more productive - those in work need to be assisted through skills and technology to produce more: our very success in getting people into work means our productivity appears worse than other countries. We have a good base from which to start but have much to do. This is why the Chancellor focussed on adult skills training, on STEM subjects (I was pleased to refer to Hack Horsham in my speech!) and on research and development. Much of what he proposed is long term - but that’s what we require to solve this very long term problem.
Increasing the number of homes available to buy or rent is also a critical commitment. We must make it easier for young people in particular to find a place of their own. A series of positive measures are being put in place. Getting policies right in not only theory but practice is the challenge. This is why I was determined to take local council leaders in to see the Minister - we need more housing but both the practical constraints on delivery and the requirement for infrastructure must be met.
Lastly the budget has to be delivered in a way that is financially sustainable for the country. Next year we finally turn the corner. Our national debt will, at last, begin to decrease as a percentage of our total GDP. This has given the Chancellor room to spend more on the NHS and other priorities. However there is no room for complacency - we are still spending more than we raise in tax which is why keeping the economy moving is so very important.
Photo caption: It was a pleasure to meet the team at the Horsham Fair Trade Christmas Market at St John’s Church Hall in Horsham Saturday - one of a number of Christmas Fairs launching the season in Horsham, Southwater and Billingshurst.