I hope everyone had an enjoyable Easter spending time with family and friends, despite the less than favourable weather.
I know that many people who work in local public services and shops didn’t get to enjoy the extended weekend and I want to thank them for their hard work in keeping everything going!
Since writing my last column the Chancellor announced the Government’s 2013 budget which outlined a number of measures to build a stronger economy and fairer society for people across the UK.
I am pleased to say that this included an increase in the tax-free part of a person’s income to £10,000 from next April. This was a top Lib Dem priority in our manifesto and means that since 2010, 5,740 people in the Borders have been lifted out of income tax altogether and 48,200 have been given, on average, a £700 tax cut.
Here in the Borders we very much depend on our cars to get around and I know that rising petrol prices have been a real frustration for local people. That’s why I was glad to hear the Chancellor announce the scrapping of this September’s planned fuel duty increase. This will save a typical Borders motorist £25 a year.
In a boost to our local businesses and charities, the Chancellor also outlined a £2,000 Employment Allowance, to enable them to take on additional employees without paying any employers’ National Insurance. Alongside a further Corporation Tax cut, down to 20% in 2015, these measures will reduce bills for Borders businesses and enable them to concentrate on growing and creating jobs for local people.
Everyone in the Borders looking to get on the property ladder will also benefit from the new Help to Buy scheme announced in the budget. Through this scheme the Government will provide a guarantee to lenders to encourage them to give mortgages to buyers with only a small deposit.
This scheme will help local people get their foot on the property ladder by making mortgages more accessible and affordable.
In the next few years millions of pounds from the UK, Scottish and local Governments and the EU will be spent in Scotland to rollout better broadband. The areas which will be covered by this investment are not yet known so I am encouraging Borderers to sign up to register their broadband interest to make sure we get the best deal locally.
Although there is strong pressure for vastly improved broadband, currently only 1.4% of people across the South of Scotland have registered their demand on the official website. It would be great to see that number increased in line with local demand. Individuals, businesses and community groups can register their interest here:https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SOSBroadbandRegistration
I continue to hold regular advice surgeries across Berwickshire and my next one is Coldstream on April 19.
If you would like to attend this surgery, please phone my office on 01896 663650 to make an appointment.