Harrogate MP praises Budget and levelling up in the North but opposition highlights failings

Harrogate and Knaresborough’s MP has welcomed the measures announced in the Chancellor’s spring Budget yesterday.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 10:44 am
Support for the Budget - Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones.

Following the chancellor’s statement to the House of Commons, yesterday, Wednesday, Mr Andrew Jones said: “I was pleased to see specific policies providing support for our hospitality industry which underpins so many jobs in our area.

“That support includes extending the exemption from business rates and when the full exemption ends continuing with a two-thirds discount.

Coun Pat Marsh, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Harrogate Borough Council, pictured centre, said the Budget has not addressed the underlying crisis on the high street.

“Many businesses wrote to me requesting this and I am glad the government has delivered.

“I have met with representatives of the guest houses association, hoteliers and the convention centre since the first lockdown and have been putting that case to the Treasury.

“Also continuing the furlough scheme will give those hospitality businesses space to grow their business again as lockdown eases and ends.

”Combining this with maintaining the VAT reduction for hospitality businesses should ease cashflow at what may be a difficult time.”

Other measures in the Budget included freezing fuel duty for the 11th consecutive year, retaining the £20 uplift in Universal Credit and a scheme to guarantee mortgages for first-time buyers who can only afford a five per cent deposit.

Mr Jones also expressed delight at some delivery on ‘levelling up’ in the North at last.

He said: “The emphasis on levelling up the North was welcome. Too often we see buzz words and sound bites that sound good for a short time but deliver little.

"Here we can see tangible projects like freeports and the new green infrastructure bank in Leeds that will provide a real boost for the North.”

But Harrogate's Lib Dems said the Government was not addressing the longer-term problems facing high streets, in particular, the problem of business rates which, they say, needed to be abolished and replaced by a fairer, less punitive system.

The Budget: What Harrogate Lib Dems said

Coun Pat Marsh, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Harrogate Borough Council, said: "With shops closing because of online shopping and more recently Covid there can be no doubt that our high streets are in crisis.

"The Lib Dems would ask the Chancellor to consider several ways to help our retailers and the hospitality sector.

"Any grants such as a small business recovery fund, to compensate them for money they are losing while they are closed in lockdown as well as the continuation of the Furlough Scheme are obviously welcome to support these businesses as they try to rebuild.

"But there are longer term solutions that need to be looked at as well.

Coun Marsh continued: "Business rates should be abolished and replaced by a Commercial Landowner Levy based on the value of commercial land only.

"The levy should be paid by owners rather than tenants.

"Commercial land should be taxed regardless of whether the buildings above it are occupied; the tax should also apply to unused and derelict commercial land.

"The Future High Streets Fund needs to be expanded to help more than the 72 areas already in receipt, far below what is actually needed in England.

"Our towns need help to recover from the pandemic and help to deliver ambitious regeneration plans.

"Maybe the Chancellor could make it as easy as possible for entrepreneurs to set up on the high street, by offering grants for low-cost incubation space and business support for start-ups. Temporary pop-up units should be available for start-ups to trial new products and services without being tied to long rents. This is about investing in our future."

The Budget: What Harrogate Labour Party said

Harrogate and Labour Knaresborough Party issued a statement after yesterday's announcements by Chancellor Rishi Sunak saying there was not enough targeted support for those many businesses still struggling to balance their books now and for the remainder of the year.

They also pointed to what they said was the Government's failure to address funding concerns for the NHS and social care.

Margaret Smith, chair of Harrogate and Knaresborough CLP, said: "Harrogate District’s independent retail, hospitality and leisure sectors have been badly hit by Covid restrictions and with social distancing still being in force next month, it means that local shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels won’t be operating as they used to.

"The announcement in the budget of extending furlough until the end of September is welcomed.

"However, businesses within those specific sectors, having to contribute towards furlough payments of 10% from July and 20% in August and September, might still find balancing the books extremely difficult.

"The impact on employers has a knock-on impact on employees. Therefore, unemployment is expected sadly to increase even more.

"The increase in Universal Credit by £20 per week is also only being extended for six months so the autumn does not bode well for a significant number of people.

The Harrogate Labour Party chair continued: "Although furlough has been extended, the Labour Party thinks it would have made more sense for it to have been targeted on firms that actually need it – “smart furlough” and made it conditional on firms signing up to industrial and environmental standards and with greater support for training built in.

"In addition, what is significantly missing from today’s Budget is any reward for key workers such as NHS staff.

"Their pay is frozen and with the government -induced Council Tax rises taking place from next month, they will be significantly worse off.

"There has also been no mention of fixing social care in this country or supporting social housing building. Indeed hidden within the budget were £30 billion cuts to Health and Social Care budgets."

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