Last week George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement and Spending Review to the House of Commons. Following good news on unemployment and the future for economic growth the Chancellor continued with policies which put sound public finances at their heart.
George Osborne said further savings were needed in Government departments to balance the books and continue paying off the Country’s debts. Ensuring Britain can pay back debts created by past Governments is not the enemy of sustained growth, it is the precondition to creating a stronger economy. This is of the upmost importance as the UK finances must be in the best possible shape to ensure we can weather any unexpected storms ahead. The ultimate aim is to create a surplus by 2019/20 which will mean extra money to spend on essential services and projects and ensure money can be set aside to meet any future problems.
The Chancellor also followed the Prime Minister’s Defence Review announcements in his commitment to spending the NATO requirement of 2% GDP. In the wake of the atrocities in Paris a few weeks ago it is clear we need to ensure the UK is protected robustly. That is why I welcome the £178 billion investment over the next ten years in our Armed Forces, to include the renewal of our vital nuclear deterrent and the creation of two new strike brigades of 5,000 personnel each.
There was also more good news in the Spending Review in the form of our continued support for our NHS, which will receive half a trillion pounds over this Parliament, with a £10 billion real term increase in its budget. Mental Health Services, so long overlooked, will receive an additional £600 million. This further investment is delivering on our manifesto promise to increase the NHS budget to the level requested by its Chief Executive Simon Stevens and shows our commitment to continue fully funding this great British institution to ensure it continues to be free at the point of use.
Pensioners were not forgotten with a record breaking increase of £3.35 a week from next April.
Apprenticeships are something we in South Derbyshire already do well, with Toyota, Nestle and JCB training not only for themselves but also for their suppliers. Our small and medium size companies also realise the benefits of training their future workforce and have taken on apprentices in huge numbers. With the future prosperity of the area in mind I was happy to hear of the introduction of the ‘Apprenticeship Levy’ on large companies which will encourage an increase in the number of apprenticeships and continue to build on the current success in this area.
This budget for growth will benefit us in South Derbyshire and the UK as a whole.
(This piece was originally written for the Burton Mail).