'This is a budget that forgot about people' - Welwyn Hatfield leaders react to Rishi Sunak's budget

Rishi Sunak

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaving Downing Street to deliver his annual budget in parliament on March 3. - Credit: Simon Dawson / No10 Downing Street

Political leaders in Welwyn Hatfield and the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce have shared their opinions on the budget and how it will impact people in our area.

Some of the main talking points from Rishi Sunak's budget include: the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September, the minimum wage increase to £8.91 an hour from April and no changes to rates of income tax, national insurance or VAT.

Cllr Tony Kingsbury

Cllr Tony Kingsbury, council leader at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council - Credit: WHBC

Leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council, Cllr Tony Kingsbury, said: “The last 12 months have been incredibly tough for all of us, and unimaginably so for some.  We’re pleased to see an extension to the additional Universal Credit payments, and other measures announced that will enable us to continue providing businesses and families with the support they need in the months ahead.

“Overall, the budget recognises that our emergence from the impacts of this awful pandemic will be driven by the agility of our businesses, the hard work of local people, and the innovation that this borough has a proud history of.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to play our part and deliver vital services for our residents and support to our businesses.  But we must be realistic that we still face substantial financial pressures and further losses to our income, while recognising we are not unique in that.  Over the last 12 months we have continued to find efficiencies, and we will redouble our efforts again as we go into next year and beyond, delivering on the priorities of our communities.”

Malcolm Cowan, Liberal Democrat group leader and a Peartree councillor, on the railway bridge

Cllr Malcolm Cowan, Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrat group leader - Credit: Malcolm Cowan

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 Liberal Democrat group leader Malcolm Cowan said: "It was a small relief that furlough payments would continue for another six months, and the temporary rise in Universal Credit will last a bit longer, but this budget was the ultimate exercise in kicking several balls into the long grass.

"Yet again, reforming and properly funding social care was left.

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"Reforming local government finance to avoid annual above-inflation rises in council tax – ignored.

"Reforming business rates on shops – the chance to bringing greater equality between bricks and mortar high street shops, and the online retailing using out of town warehouses – no action.

"Worryingly there is no additional money for the NHS to help it reduce the massive backlog of cancer and other treatments postponed because of COVID. Clearly all the NHS gets from this government is a round of applause from doorsteps, nothing more."

Welwyn Hatfield Labour leader Cllr Kieran Thorpe

Welwyn Hatfield Labour leader Cllr Kieran Thorpe - Credit: Cllr Thorpe

Cllr Kieran Thorpe,  Welwyn Hatfield Labour group leader, said: "This is a pivotal moment in for our country, but more than that it is a once in a generation opportunity to ensure that the recovery from the pandemic doesn't just go back to how things were before.

"When the virus hit the UK, homelessness was eradicated within days.  Hospitals were opened within weeks.

"This is a budget that forgot about people. The people who have suffered economic and health impacts, and the people that have been there to help them. Most tellingly, the people surviving on the Universal Credit 'uplift' that will now be taken away.

"The country needs to see fundamental change, in how we care for the vulnerable, the elderly and the young.  How we tackle inequality, how we lay the social foundations that give everyone the same opportunities in life.

"Local councils are still facing pressures. Local and emergency services are still running on fumes despite the value they clearly demonstrated over the last 12 months, despite all the clapping."

Chairman Nick Brown welcomes guests at the Chamber of Commerce lunch

Nick Brown, chairman of Welwyn Hatfield Chamber of Commerce - Credit: Archant

Nick Brown, chairman of Welwyn Hatfield Chamber of Commerce, said: "The Chancellor has had to convince the ratings agencies that the UK economy is fiscally on the road to recovery, (thank you AstraZeneca), while not stalling that recovery.

"It is an interesting challenge because parts of the economy are fine where others are devastated. On the face of it, freezing allowances, will mean we will all pay a bit more of any extra we get, which is sensible.

"Deferring the six per cent increase in corporation tax until April 2023 will be a relief to many firms with loans to repay. Extending the stamp duty holiday till June will support asset valuations for the banks, and help people to move due to changing circumstances.

"I am not sure where I stand on extending the furlough. Is it money well spent? Are these firms going under anyway? How long should you support them? Especially if future businesses are picking up the bill." 

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