Budget 'shows Tory government is out of touch with Sheffielders'

Business leaders in Sheffield broadly welcomed today's budget, but one city MP said it showed the Tory government was 'out of touch with the reality' for her constituents.

Wednesday, 22nd November 2017, 4:37 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 10:11 am
Chancellor Philip Hammond unveils his autumn budget (credit: PA Wire)

Abolishing stamp duty for most first-time house buyers in England and Wales, saving them up to £5,000 was the headline measure in Philip Hammond's autumn budget.

The Chancellor also promised £1.5 billion to 'address concerns' about the universal credit scheme and £400 million to create more charging points for electric cars, as well as adding 28p to the cost of a 20-pack of cigarettes, as he downgraded forecasts for the economy's growth.

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses across the city, said at first glance the spending plans appeared 'well-balanced' and 'quite forward-looking'.

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Richard Wright, the chamber's executive director, welcomed Mr Hammond's commitment to education, which he said would address the UK's 'skills shortage, and the decision to tie the rise in business rates to the lower CPI measure of inflation, saving firms an estimated £2.3bn.

But he said the £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund announced for northern regions with elected metro mayors showed how much Sheffield and surrounding cities were being 'penalised' for abandoning devolution plans.

"Overall, we feel the Chancellor has presented a budget that addresses a lot of key areas and issues that should help get the economy into a better position to confront the challenges of Brexit," he added.

Gill Furniss, the Labour MP for Brightside and Hillsborough, was less impressed.

"Today's budget revealed the state of our economy: growth forecasts down, wages falling, and debt rising. This is a result of seven years of a Tory government out of touch with the reality of my constituents," she said.

She claimed the budget offered nothing for public sector workers who had seen their pay fall in real terms since 2010, the extra £2.8bn promised for the 'overstretched' NHS was too little and it failed to reverse what she said was a 36 per cent cut in funding for South Yorkshire Police.

Dr Jonathan Perraton, the University of Sheffield's senior economics lecturer, praised what he called an 'assured performance' by Mr Hammond despite the latest economic forecasts making for 'grim reading'.

And Dr Craig Berry, a leading political economist at the university, described the announcement on stamp duty as an attempt to 'paper over the cracks' of 'intractable economic problems', which he said would be exacerbated by Brexit.