Investing in infrastructure, our NHS and other public services

In keeping with the theme of getting things done, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak’s recent Budget outlined plans to invest in infrastructure, our NHS and other public services.

It is right that the first thing announced last week was Britain’s work to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19). Extra resources needed by the NHS will be provided. A new £5 billion Initial COVID-19 Response fund has been created so the NHS can treat coronavirus patients; councils can support vulnerable people; and to ensure funding is available for other public services.

There will be £40 million of new funding to enable further rapid research into COVID-19 and to increase the capacity and capability of testing and surveillance. Up to £150 million will go towards international efforts to stop further transmission, including into the UK.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 who are unable to work because they are self-isolating. Those who are not eligible for SSP can now make a claim for Universal Credit or an enhanced Employment and Support Allowance. People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a Jobcentre if they are advised to self-isolate.

Other measures in the Budget include ensuring more money in peoples’ pockets with a more than £200 tax cut for the typical family. The National Insurance threshold will increase to £9,500 this April, benefiting 31 million people, with a typical employee saving over £100 in 2020 – the first step to increasing the threshold to £12,500.

The National Living Wage will increase by 6.2 per cent to £8.72 from April, with the Budget committing to a new ambitious target for the National Living Wage to end low pay, and extend this to workers aged 21 and over by 2024.

A further issue which I have continued to pursue on behalf of Crawley residents is the freezing of fuel duty, which the Chancellor confirmed will happen for a tenth year in a row, saving an average car driver a cumulative £1,200 compared to pre-2010 plans.

Henry Smith MP