• The Budget

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    03 April 2020

    Three weeks ago the Chancellor delivered his first budget amidst the uncertainty and economic pressures of the coronavirus outbreak. I wrote about it at the time, but decided to bank the article and use my recent columns to clarify Government advice on coronavirus containment measures and to make sure local businesses are aware of the range of financial support available from the Government. This includes The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, where businesses can receive grants to cover 80% of their employees' wages (up to £2,500 a month per worker). There is also now greater support for the self-employed as well - something I pressed the Chancellor on when he subsequently appeared before the Treasury Select Committee, which I Chair. These articles are available on my website at

    But a budget is one of the most important events of the political year and I wanted to return to it, outlining some of its key measures. Having served as a Treasury Minister and worked on the last two budgets, I know the huge amount of preparation involved and I was encouraged with a lot of the policies that were put forward. I spoke in the House of Commons immediately after the Leader of the Opposition responded (my speech can be found at and welcomed the measures that will benefit the South West. 

    So, what was in the budget and how will it affect Central Devon? The Chancellor's pledge to increase infrastructure spending to its highest level in real terms since the 1950s was the cornerstone of the budget. Benefiting from interest rates being at a joint record low, it has never been cheaper for the Government to borrow money and the Chancellor is keeping a manifesto commitment to level up funding across the country to ensure every region benefits from infrastructure investment. We have already seen the Government deliver this in education, with Devon receiving a significant boost in per pupil funding at both primary and secondary level. The South West will benefit from several schemes but the headline announcement was the major upgrade to the A303 - one of the main routes bringing visitors to Devon. With the tourism industry vital to our local economy this is very good news.

    As well as policies which will benefit the regional economy as a whole, there were also measures aimed at helping family finances. Raising the amount someone earns before paying National Insurance Contributions will take £500,000 of the lowest paid workers out of paying National Insurance altogether and will disproportionately benefit Devon as we have some of the lowest wages in the country. In such a rural  county, where most rely on their car for transport, another freeze in fuel duty was also very helpful. 

    And finally, although I know I keep repeating it, please stay at home and avoid all non-essential travel. You will be protecting your own family and others. 

    For more from Mel follow him on twitter @MelJStride or visit