I've given you what you want - Brown
By Gordon BrownChancellor of the Exchequer(writing for the EADT)I KNOW what East Anglian Daily Times readers want from a Chancellor – a strong and stable economy which allows them to provide for their families and to move towards a fairer society.
By Gordon Brown
Chancellor of the Exchequer
(writing for the EADT)
I KNOW what East Anglian Daily Times readers want from a Chancellor – a strong and stable economy which allows them to provide for their families and to move towards a fairer society.
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This Government has worked hard over the last eight years to deliver these goals for people in East Anglia and across the country.
Unemployment has fallen, for example, by 49% in Braintree and 52% in Harwich. Thanks to the support from local firms for the New Deal, youth unemployment has fallen by 75% across the region.
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Britain is enjoying the longest period of growth since records began. Inflation is lower than for 30 years. Interest rates lower than for 35 years. Unemployment is lower than for a generation. Across the country there are two million more people in work. I know you don't want me to take any risks with this hard-won stability.
After all, the scars from the Tory years when inflation was in double figures, interest rates hit 15%, unemployment was over three million and thousands of families in East Anglia lost their homes are still too fresh. But if unemployment is low, we can save billions of pounds in benefits.
So a growing economy means, rather than cutting back funding as the Tories did and plan to do again, the country can afford to invest to improve our schools and hospitals – and to help families, children and pensioners.
I announced new money to modernise schools across East Anglia. Education is this Government's priority which is why, for example, annual investment has been increased in real terms by £760 per pupil in Suffolk since 1997.
By increasing child tax credit, we have reduced tax on millions of families. It means effectively that families on £25,000 with two children will only be paying 6p in the pound on income tax.
There are 1.5 million more homeowners than in 1997. But I recognise we have to do more to help young couples across East Anglia get a foot on the property market, so we are doubling the point at which stamp duty is paid.
But, of course, the main help to homeowners – and businesses – is to keep interest rates as low as possible. Lower interest rates now compared to levels under the Tories are saving homeowners, on average, £300 a month on their mortgages.
For pensioners, we have already abolished Tory eye test charges, introduced free TV licences for the 75s and over and the £200 winter fuel payment which is increased to £300 when you reach 80.
Council tax rises, thanks to Government action, will be lower this year than for many years. But I recognise they can still place a burden on many pensioners.
So yesterday, I announced a special £200 council tax refund to pensioner households over 65 who pay council tax.
And from next year as well, we will ensure, across the UK, free local bus travel for every pensioner.