Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Newspaper column 2 December 2015 - The Autumn Statement

Last Wednesday I was in the House of Commons for the Spending Review and Autumn Statement, delivered by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In the months since the Summer Budget I have been working on your behalf behind the scenes at Westminster to lobby on the issues that directly impact our constituency.  So, I was extremely pleased to hear many of the measures that the Chancellor announced.  I was not a lone voice, the strength of feeling came from across the backbenches and I am pleased that our voices were heard. 

Many of you contacted me with concerns about the reforms to Tax Credits announced in the summer.  I met with the Chancellor personally to push the case for reconsideration.  The Tax Credits will now be replaced by Universal Credit during this Parliament and the immediate impact at the reduction in Tax Credits will be delayed until the benefit of the rises in the new National Living Wage are felt.   

In my view the housing market in Cornwall has long been skewed unfairly against local people.  House prices are driven up by second home owners from more affluent parts of the UK, and this combined with the relatively low average wage in the County, has put home ownership out of reach for many working families.  At the same time buy-to-let landlords, many of them using pension lump sums to buy property in the county, are also pushing prices up.  The additional 3% Stamp Duty on second homes is a good first step to controlling that market. I recognise that work in this area is by no means finished. The Chancellor also stated that much of the money raised nationally will be spent on providing homes for local people in Cornwall.

I was particularly pleased to listen to the announcement on the fairer funding for schools.  Cornish schools have had the raw end of this deal for many years and it is time that local children receive funding commensurate with the more wealthy areas of the country.

Despite the rumours and scaremongering by some leading up to the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor did not cut funding to our police force.  With international tensions growing and the threat of terror strikes on the increase, it is important that we continue to focus on the security of our country and its citizens. 

I was also pleased to hear that the £50 rebate on South West Water bills will continue.  This Government has recognised that the South West faces specific issues and is willing to help support us in tackling those issues.

The session before the Chancellor spoke was the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions and I was given my first opportunity to question the PM in the House.  I took this opportunity to ask about the timetable for the Spaceport decision, and was told that this will unfold during the course of next year.

I was therefore delighted to hear that the application for the extension of the Newquay Aerohub Enterprise Zone has been successful.   With Goonhilly Earth Station and Newquay Aerohub working closely together, Cornwall has the opportunity to cement its reputation in the aerospace and space industries.  These will help provide the higher-paying jobs we so desperately need. 

The Autumn Statement represented the logical next steps in building our economy, ensuring our security and protecting the vulnerable in our society.