The Budget, in Brown's own words

By GORDON BROWNChancellor of the ExchequerTHANKS to your efforts and enterprise, East Anglia is looking to the future with a new confidence.There are major problems still to overcome, of course, but unemployment here has more than halved since 1997.

By Gordon Brown

Chancellor of the Exchequer

THANKS to your efforts and enterprise, East Anglia is looking to the future with a new confidence.

There are major problems still to overcome, of course, but unemployment here has more than halved since 1997.

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Youth unemployment, for so long a shadow over our country, has fallen 80% across this region.

Living standards are rising. Our vital public services are getting the investment they need. Schools and hospitals are improving. Interest rates and inflation remain low and stable.

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This is, of course, due to the success and hard work of local firms and East Anglian Daily Times readers. But you also worked hard when the Conservatives were in power.

The result then, though, was not low unemployment, but over three million out of work. Mortgage rates hit 15%. Thousands of families in this area lost their homes. Britain was inevitably first into recession and last out.

But this Labour Government took the tough decisions to end these decades of boom and bust. Long-term decisions to bring stability to the economy - and to ensure your hard work pays off.

And in yesterday's Budget, I was able to show our country was reaping the rewards.

Britain is now the most stable of the advanced economies and has enjoyed the longest period of sustained growth for 200 years. We have avoided the recent recessions that have hit America, France, Germany and Japan.

Growth in Britain since 2000 has been higher than the U.S. and twice the level of the euro zone.

And this stability and strength has allowed our country to tackle poverty and the chronic underinvestment in the public services on which we all depend.

Investment which has delivered an extra 2,400 teachers, 1,471 nurses and 1,000 GPs across the region.

There are, for example, 277 more teachers in Suffolk. The number of people waiting for in-patient treatment in Suffolk has fallen by 15% since 1997.

We are tackling poverty among young and old. Introduced the winter allowance for pensioners. Lifted over half a million children out of poverty.

But we are also determined to secure value for money for taxpayers by ensuring investment is matched with reform throughout our public services.

So yesterday I announced major steps to achieve efficiency gains by directing resources away from unnecessary backroom staff to front-line services.

We are also going to move 20,000 civil servants from Whitehall to the regions to help improve services, cut costs and boost local economies.

These reforms and the strength and stability of our economy means I could announce yesterday that we could do more to help both young and old.

Education has been this Government's number one priority right from the beginning because we understand that our children are our country's future.

It's why we have increased investment in Suffolk's schools, for example, by £530 per pupil in real terms since 1997. Investment, which thanks to the hard work of teachers and pupils, has seen a real improvement in results.

But yesterday I announced that we would increase spending further on education and skills each year across the country so investment will have risen by an additional £8.5billion by 2008.

It means that instead of the £2,500 the country was spending per pupil when we came to power in 1997, this figure will have increase by 2008 to £5,500.

Sustained investment to ensure every secondary school building is brought up to 21st Century standards over the next decade.

And I could also announce a big increase in investment in Sure Start - which is proving such a success in Lowestoft, Colchester, Clacton and Ipswich - to give our youngest children the opportunities they deserve.

Just as I have been able to invest in the country's young people, I have also been able to offer additional help to the elderly.

Because I recognise that council tax hits older pensioners particularly hard, I am increasing the winter fuel allowance this year by £100 to £300 per household for pensioners 70 or over.

This is a Budget to continue building a strong economy and a fairer society.

Unlike the Tories, we won't take risks with our hard-won stability or put unaffordable tax cuts before investment in our public services.

It's a Budget, above all, which I believe meets the priorities of EADT readers, for East Anglia and the whole country.

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