The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on us all. While there is still a way to go on the road to recovery, the impressive vaccine roll-out combined with the success at turning around the speed of virus transmission through the lockdown restrictions puts us back in the driving seat. This is what last week’s budget was all about – putting the framework in place for steady economic revival.
Reopening from lockdown will be a gradual process. It will take between now and the Summer. So the Chancellor rightly extended the furlough scheme until the Autumn, which will help to protect jobs here in Dover and Deal. In addition, extra help has been given to businesses required to close including help with business rates and additional restart grants of up to £18,000 to help retail, hospitality, hairdressing and other businesses get back on their feet. Ours is an area where a number of people are self-employed. Therefore it is welcome that there is also extra support for self-employed businesses, with an extension to the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme as well.
Ahead of the budget I met with the Chancellor and pressed for more support for our area and for jobs. This budget represents an extra boost for Dover & Deal. For the Dover area, there was an award of £150,000 for our council to make a levelling up fund bid. This is in addition to the multi-million pound allocation from the Future High Street fund, and millions of pounds more in investment earmarked for the proposed border control point at the White Cliffs business park.
All of this will help us make the most of our commercial, retail and cultural assets. It will help lay the foundation for the recovery and a stronger local economic future.
The budget also sets out a long term plan to fix the public finances. This matters because Covid support will result in borrowing of over £355 Billion this year alone. This eye-watering sum will have to be paid for and the books will need to be balanced over the coming years. This has started with tax thresholds being frozen and business taxes will rise. However, it is vital that we get investment in our economy if we are to turbo-charge the recovery, so business investment is being encouraged with tax breaks too.
This is a budget that will make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead. Our economy will be opening long before those of many other countries. We need to make up for lost time, to get our economy back to pre-Covid levels and beyond as soon as possible. To protect jobs and money here in Dover and Deal – and create more jobs and opportunity in the months and years to come.