Julian welcomes Budget to beat coronavirus and spread prosperity
March 11, 2020
“I am reassured by the £30 billion assigned to cushion the impact of the coronavirus outbreak across the economy, public services and families. The Chancellor said that our NHS will be given whatever it needs to fight coronavirus, with £5 billion assigned immediately to a COVID-19 response fund to support the health service, local authorities and social care services.
I also welcome the announcement that Statutory Sick Pay will be available for those self-isolating in line with medical advice and those diagnosed, now payable from day 1 rather than day 4. Crucially, provision is also being made for those ineligible for statutory sick pay through being self-employed or because of their earnings level, with changes to make it easier to claim support via Universal Credit and Contributory Employment and Support Allowance. The requirements of the Universal Credit minimum income floor will be suspended for the duration of the outbreak for those diagnosed with the virus or self-isolating, ensuring the self-employed can receive support, and payments will be available up-front, with no prior requirement to attend a JobCentre.
I am glad to see an additional commitment of £500 million to a new Hardship Fund, to allow local councils to assist the most economically vulnerable households, for instance through council tax relief.
I know York businesses will be encouraged by the comprehensive package of measures to protect them from the consequences of the outbreak. Business rates will be entirely suspended this year for retail, leisure and hospitality enterprises with a rateable value below £51,000, the government will refund sick pay bills for 2 weeks for all firms with up to 250 workers, and a temporary government Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is being created to help businesses access overdrafts and bank lending.
I am also very pleased the Chancellor delivered the Conservative election promise to raise the National Insurance payment threshold from £8,632 to £9,500 from next month, handing a typical employee around £104 and typical self-employed person £78. This will benefit 31 million people, and I want to see steady progress towards the government’s ambition of eventually raising the NI threshold to £12,500.
Scientific innovation and research are where future jobs and growth are going to come from, and represents an important part of York’s economy, so I am very encouraged by the announcement public R&D (research and development) funding will rise to £22 billion over the next 5 years, putting this at 0.8% of GDP, ahead of America, China, Japan and France. Having called only last week in the House of Commons for a fairer regional distribution of the science budget to assist cutting-edge research at the University of York, I warmly welcome today’s announcement of £400 million more science research funding this year, with much of this targeted outside southern England.
The Chancellor also unveiled serious investment in public services and infrastructure, with £6 billion of new money for the NHS to help fund the recruitment of 50,000 more nurses and create 50 million more GP appointment slots. As a strong champion of better technical and vocational education provision, I am really glad to see £1.5 billion earmarked to refurbish FE colleges, which I expect to be available to institutions like York College and Askham Bryan College in York.
Given my long focus on improving broadband for outlying neighbourhoods of our city, I am very pleased to see £5 billion assigned to bring gigabit-capable broadband to the hardest to reach parts of the country. I know many local residents will also welcome the £2.5 billion set aside to improve local roads, enough to fix 10 million potholes a year for 5 years.
Having lobbied the government for months, I was also really glad to see the Chancellor commit new money to help develop the York Central site, which will unlock over 2500 new homes and 112,000 square meters of high-quality commercial space for our city. I am pressing for more details, and for guarantees road connections will be improved alongside to prevent new congestion.
Following the success of last year’s campaign led by me and others to get the government to fund the dualling of York’s A1237 outer ring road, I was disappointed that the Budget did not bring forward the planned dualling of the A64, but am reassured that this proposal remains on the table for the next funding round, and will continue to push on this.”