BUDGET: Sheffield reacts to extra schools funding, National Insurance rise and more
Families, pensioners, education chiefs and pub landlords in Sheffield have given a mixed reaction to a budget which contained few surprises.
An increase in National Insurance contributions for self-employed workers, £2 billion extra funding for adult social care and new 'T-levels' for students gaining technical skills were among the headline announcements as Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled his first spring budget on Wednesday (March 8).
Becky Stevenson, who lives in Loxley with husband Ben and their daughter Summer, aged one, welcomed the rise in the tax-free personal allowance to £11,500 this year and £12,500 by 2021. She described the extra money as a 'helpful buffer' for many low-income families.
But the 35-year-old, whose husband works as a facilities assistant at the University of Sheffield, criticised the decision to freeze child benefit, which she said would affect many families struggling to pay rising food and energy bills.
Becky, who took voluntary redundancy from her job at the University of Sheffield before having Summer, also questioned the impact of the £5m announced to help those returning to work after a career break. She said such a sum was likely to support only a 'small number of people'.
As for the £536m announced for new free schools and maintenance of existing schools across the country, she said although she is happy with schools near her that money could help improve provision in other parts of the city where she said many parents had been left disappointed after not getting into their preferred schools.
"The Government should also look at what can be done for teachers to make it a less pressurised profession so fewer members of staff leave, which affects the quality of education," she said.
Tony Maltby, chairman of Sheffield Pensioners Action Group (SPAG), said a £3,000 cut in the tax-free dividend allowance from April 2018 would affect few people and those it did impact would have financial advisors to help them 'circumvent' the cost.
He described the extra £2bn for adult social care over the next three years as a 'drop in the ocean', which he felt would do little to affect the national 'crisis'.
He said it was important that money went to improve front-line services, especially when it came to supporting elderly patients to get out of hospital more quickly and back into their own homes.
Self-employed PR consultant Adelle Draper, who lives in Chancet Wood, was unhappy about the one per cent rise in National Insurance Contributions for self-employed workers from April 2018.
"If it is only around 60p a week then it won't affect me too much. It's only around £30 extra a year, so I can't really complain," said the 30-year-old.
"It does anger me though because it feels like the Government come down on the little guy at the bottom and let the huge corporations get away."
But she welcomed the £690 million announced to tackle congestion on roads and public transport, which she said might benefit her husband Steve Hampshire, who often faces heavy traffic on his commute to Tinsley.
There were no nasty surprises for drinkers and smokers in the budget, with alcohol and tobacco duty remaining unchanged.
And there was some relief for pub managers, with Mr Hammond announcing a one-year £1,000 business rates discount for pubs with a rateable value of up to £100,000.
Nathan Hehir, who runs the Three Tuns, on Silver Street Head, in Sheffield, was glad not to have to add heftier duties to higher prices from suppliers.
Pub punters Dave Barton and Karl Lyon, who regularly meet in Sheffield for a pint, said even a small tax rise on the price of beer wouldn't worry a casual drinker.
They were more concerned about the price difference between pubs in Sheffield.
"The different prices across similar pubs is unbelievable," Mr Barton said.
Mr Hammond's budget included an extra £500m a year to boost skills training for 16 to 19-year-olds.
He said the new T-Levels for technical training, due to be introduced from 2019, would be the biggest shake-up in post-16 education since A-levels came in 70 years ago.
Clair Mowbray, chief executive of the National College for High Speed Rail, in Doncaster said: “With the North-East experiencing the fastest productivity growth rate in the country, it is crucial that young people are supported in gaining the skills they need to succeed and contribute towards the region’s growth."
Nick Crew, executive principal at UTC Sheffield, said: “I welcome the strong focus on technical qualifications announced in the budget.
"This will help to provide the high quality skills that the economy needs to grow and create more jobs for young people. This is something that university technical colleges are already doing and which is very different to schools."
Andrew Hartley, business development director at The Sheffield College, described the boost for technical training as a 'vote of confidence' in colleges which was 'pivotal' to getting the economy moving in a post-Brexit world.
'BAD BUDGET FOR SHEFFIELD'
Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, said: "This is a bad budget for Sheffield. It doesn’t address the issues that people raise with me locally, from under-funded schools to a struggling NHS.
"With tax cuts for the wealthy and pet projects like grammar schools, this Government is simply making the wrong choices.
“Schools in my constituency face an average cut of 10.4% but will get no money. Instead, Theresa May is putting millions into a new wave of grammar schools that nobody wants.
"While she looks back to the 1950s we need more cash for the schools of today, for all children, not just those who pass the 11 plus.
“In the referendum on our EU membership last year, the country was promised £350 million a week more for the NHS. Now the Chancellor’s ditched that and is saying we’ll
have to save up to £60 billion to prepare for the economic damage of Brexit. The truth is finally dawning on him, but the cost will be paid by ordinary families
“Almost half of those who’ll benefit from the £1billion inheritance tax cuts, which the Chancellor is ploughing ahead with, are in London and the South East. Some of the richest
families there will be getting huge tax breaks, while the big cuts to councils in our northern cities have hit local services hard. In tough times, the Government is making the wrong