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From Telegraph & Argus, 22nd November, 2017
Written by Rob Lowson

AN ABOLITION of stamp duty for many first-time buyers, an increase in the living wage, £2.8bn in extra funding for the NHS, and a £44bn boost for the housing market were some of the pledges made by Chancellor Philip Hammond in his Autumn budget yesterday. Other measures included the bringing forward of cuts to business rates, £540m to support the growth of electric cars, and a further £3bn set aside to prepare the UK for every possible outcome of Brexit. Duty on beer, wine, spirits, and most ciders has been frozen, city regions will receive, or be able to bid for, a share of a £1.7bn transport fund, and an extra £1.5bn will be devoted to “address concerns” over the universal credit scheme.

Economic growth for this year was downgraded from two per cent to 1.5 per cent, but annual borrowing was £49.9bn, £8.4bn lower than forecast in March.

Mr Hammond said the UK economy “continues to confound those who talk it down,” though Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the budget as a “record of failure with a forecast of more to come.”

The district’s Labour MPs joined in the criticism, accusing Mr Hammond of continuing a policy of austerity and ignoring vital issues such as the problems caused by the universal credit system and a lack of funding for schools.

Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West, said: “The budget today is still a clear indication that the Tories are out-of-touch. They fail to recognise the difficulties real people are facing up and down the country. Austerity continues, with many public services still lacking the investment they need.

“Disappointingly, they have learnt nothing from the election and are pressing ahead with damaging cuts to our schools with nine out of ten losing funding. Bradford schools are under immense pressure and nothing yesterday will reassure them that the government is listening.”

“The Tories have recognised the chaos they have caused with the badly planned universal credit system, but it is too late for many in Bradford who have faced tremendous hardship. They have fallen short of a pause on the roll-out and still seem content with putting people at risk while they test the system.”

Imran Hussain, Labour MP for Bradford East, described the budget as “another in a long line of Tory smoke and mirrors.”

He said: “This budget is offering half-baked promises in an attempt to mask the sluggish growth, soaring debt, and stagnating pay that is hurting working people in Bradford, and it does nothing to roll back years of austerity and increasing poverty which proves this Government is not fit for office.

“After seven years of pressures on our schools we have been left with a serious teacher recruitment and retention crisis which the Chancellor had the perfect opportunity in the budget to tackle with bold policies, but instead of doing so he missed his chance and has provided no meaningful funding which won’t address acute teacher shortages across a range of subject areas.

“The rollout of universal credit has caused real suffering, but rather than halt the rollout as Parliament has demanded and fix the broken system, the Chancellor has only put back £1 for every £10 cut from the system and he will still leave claimants waiting for up to five weeks for payments, leaving many families struggling to make ends meet.”

Judith Cummins, Labour MP for Bradford South, said: “The people of Bradford have been hit hard by seven years of crippling austerity.

“Local services are being slashed and burned as public sector budgets are cut to the bone.

“Yesterday’s budget was an opportunity for Theresa May and her Government to help struggling families. Working people are struggling to make ends meet as their pay packets stagnate and the cost of day to day essentials sky-rocket.

“This budget will hit working people hard. I will continue to fight for more money for our schools, our NHS, and our vital local services.”

John Grogan, Labour MP for Keighley, said: “I regret the fact that the Chancellor did not put any extra additional resources into all schools, many of which are facing significant cuts in Bradford.

“Social care for the elderly and local government funding were also hardly mentioned and it looks like austerity will continue in these areas.

“Governmemt ministers need to start talking about investing in towns, a word which I don’t think passed the Chancellor’s lips, and not just concentrating on the big cities like Leeds and Manchester.

“The six breweries in the Keighley constituency, including Timothy Taylor and Ilkley Brewery, will rightly be pleased that the Chancellor has frozen beer duty and extended rate relief for pubs.”

In a more positive vein, Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, said: “I am sure many people will be delighted to hear of the extra money for the NHS and the extra help to get young people on the housing ladder.