Last week I delivered my first budget. It was an enormous privilege to stand in front of No11 with the famous Red Box.
Lucia, Jack and Anna watched and then came to the House of Commons to hear it being delivered. It was Anna’s first time in the chamber of the House of Commons.
What did you think? I asked her. “A pantomime, daddy,” she replied. Sometimes ten-year-olds are very wise.
My plan was to show the country our plan for growth. That is really the key for our country: how we return to healthy growth in a way that can pay for the NHS and schools as well as keeping taxes low.
Locally it matters: lots of people are feeling the pinch; we want investment in the Royal Surrey and Frimley; and we also need growth throughout the country to reduce development pressures in Surrey.
There has been progress since the autumn. Ten-year gilt rates have fallen (and are now below the US), debt servicing costs are down, mortgage rates are lower and inflation has peaked.
There is more work to bring down inflation but I focused on the two biggest issues businesses (locally and nationally) tell me are holding them back: taxes and labour shortages.
I introduced the most generous tax breaks for business investment among advanced economies – with 100 per cent of capital spending now deductible against the next year’s taxable profits.
I also announced ambitious plans to remove obstacles from people who want to work. Of most interest locally will be my childcare plans. I announced we will expand the 30 hours’ free childcare offer for three- and four-year-olds (introduced by the Conservatives a decade ago) to all children over nine months.
This is a near 60 per cent cut in the cost of childcare for one- and two-year-olds worth £6,500 per child, so I am putting my money where my mouth is on this one.
Because it is such a big expansion, it will take time to roll out. Nonetheless, anyone with a one-year-old will get help when their child is two, and anyone who is pregnant now will get help for their child when they are one.
For school-age children we will ask all schools to move towards a ‘wraparound’ offer allowing kids to be dropped off at 8am and picked up at 6pm.
I also announced major reforms to pension tax rules so people (especially doctors) are not forced into early retirement and plans to support disabled people back into work. In the age of Zoom and working from home, there are many more jobs that can be done by those classified as long-term sick or disabled.
I want to help businesses fill one million vacancies across the economy. But I also think that, as a society, we should value work. I hope in the budget I showed how we can do that.
But I also remember the many families who are still feeling the pinch. So I extended the £2,500 Energy Price Guarantee for three months which will save a typical family £160. I postponed the 11p fuel duty rise, a £100 saving for drivers.
And last but not least for local pubs I froze the draught duty so it is now 11p less than a pint at a supermarket. Cheers to all of them!