MP’S COLUMN - Long term plan is working

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s recent Autumn Statement set out to update the nation on progress since he announced his budget in April.

From the outset when the results of the general election forced us into a coalition with the Lib Dems, we knew there would be many difficult decisions to be made.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t agree with everything George Osborne has done.

For example I have consistently stated that he needs to take much more radical steps to simplify our tax system, the overly complex nature of which is inherently biased against individuals, working families, and small businesses.

I was very happy, though, that the Government finally agreed to my repeated urgings to recognise marriage in the tax system, and plans are going ahead to introduce a marriage tax allowance (however modest it may be to start with).

Difficulties and imperfections aside, George Osborne’s long-term economic plan is working.

The vast size of the deficit and the massive debt incurred under the previous Labour government is being tackled in an orderly and responsible fashion.

A year ago it was predicted that economic growth this year would be 2.4%, which rose to an estimate of 2.7% when the Budget was announced.

I’m happy to report growth is now exceeding both those targets and looks to reach 3% for this year.

Even better, it’s good old fashioned manufacturing that is growing fastest, and investment is set to rise by 11% this year.

But the most important thing about growth isn’t a series of abstract figures: it’s the jobs created.

Over half a million new jobs are forecast for this year, and unemployment is expected to fall from the 8% we inherited from Labour to 5.4% next year. Each of those jobs is a life, an individual, a family.

Each one of those is a better hope for the future, and this is how I measure the real impact the Conservative-led government is making.

I’ve long argued for cutting income tax to provide immediate relief for hard working individuals and families, and so I very much welcome the Chancellor’s announcement that the

tax-free Personal Allowance will increase to £10,600 in April.

We are working towards our commitment to raise the threshold for the higher rate of tax to £50,000 by the end of the decade.

Stamp duty is another thing that worries many with the uncertainties of the property market these days, and the Chancellor’s reforms grabbed many of the headlines reporting on the Autumn Statement.

The new plans for Stamp Duty result in a cut for 98% of those who pay the duty. The buyer of the average family home – currently estimated to be worth £275,000 – will pay £4,500 less.

All these reforms – higher growth, declining unemployment, lower income tax, lower stamp duty – are signs that we are putting power back in the hands of working individuals, families, and small businesses, and we intend to carry on that drive come the general election in May.

Sir Edward Leigh

MP for Gainsborough