November 24, 2016
Burnham-On-Sea's MP welcomes Chancellor's Autumn Statement

Burnham-On-Sea's MP James Heappey has welcomed Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement after a series of announcements on infrastructure investment were made in the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Heappey said: "The public finances are looking much less positive than they were a year ago and so the statement was appropriately sober and unflashy."

"Growth predictions have fallen and whilst the UK continues to grow more quickly than all over G7 countries and record numbers of people are in work, there is no escaping that the deficit cannot be cleared as quickly as the Government had previously hoped."

"I welcome, however, that the new fiscal rules set by the Chancellor will continue to force the country to live within its means with deficit to be cleared early in the next decade. The additional borrowing in the meantime will at least be much cheaper as interest rates are currently so low."

"In particular, I welcome the focus on investing in our nation’s infrastructure. In the South West especially, we have suffered from decades of under investment and our transport and communications networks are showing the strain. That poor connectivity discourages investment and limits productivity. The billions of pounds committed today to our road, rail, broadband and mobile phone networks is really welcome, as is the cash that will make our existing networks better protected from flooding."

Before the Autumn Statement was announced today Mr Heappey was calling for to cut fuel duty in tomorrow’s Autumn Statement – and put more money in the pockets of people in Somerset. He is also urging the Chancellor to set up a powerful PumpWatch watchdog to stop motorists in getting ripped off at the forecourt by big oil companies.

Mr Heappey was among more than 50 MPs who have signed a letter to Mr Hammond, urging him to help hard-pressed families and small businesses by cutting fuel duty and introducing a regulator that will stop petrol stations increasing the pump price rapidly when oil prices rise but not being equally quick to cut prices when the oil price falls.

The Autumn Statement reflected the calls from MPs like Mr Heappey, with Mr Hammond announcing there would be a freeze of fuel duty, along with a rise of 30p to the National Living Wage and an increase to the personal tax allowance.

"These are measures that will put money back in the pockets of Somerset residents," said Mr Heappey after the announcement.

"And Somerset’s businesses will benefit too with a doubling of rural rate relief, confirmation that previous commitments to reduced corporation tax will remain and an eye-catching measure on rate relief for businesses who install their own fibre optic broadband connection."

"There is not much money to go around but increasing spending on infrastructure will boost productivity, encourage growth and, in turn, mean that there is more opportunity to invest in our public services."

The statement has not been welcomed by all. UNISON South West has denounced the lack of measures aimed at social care and says the NHS will pay the price.
UNISON South West regional secretary Joanne Kaye said: "Hopes were raised the Chancellor would find extra cash for social care, and ease the burden on the NHS and local councils struggling to keep a lid on the growing crisis."

"Instead the government has chosen to ignore social care, preferring to look the other way as a growing number of elderly people are getting no care at all. The Chancellor’s published document didn’t even mention the NHS nor social care once – a shocking set of priorities given the importance of health and care services to so many people in the South West."


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