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Policy North: Budget had some important content for the region

Stephen Purvis, Chairman of Policy North has been reacting to today's budget:

One of the most headline grabbing items for the North East was the very positive news for road improvements, with a firm commitment to upgrade both the A66 and A69 as part of a £230m package.

Our roads are crucial connections for businesses in the North East and improving our infrastructure is key to region.

Secondly, the Chancellor announced that along with the Justice Secretary, he was exploring giving the Mayor of Manchester some Justice powers. This is a huge step forward for the current programme of devolution into the social justice agenda and could have a big impact in our own region in the future.

I am sure the Policy North team will be looking into this exciting development further.

Thirdly, the Chancellor reaffirmed his commitment to ensure 100% of local government business rate revenue will be kept and spent by local Councillors - however at the same time he announced there will be cuts to business rates for SMEs. There will be big questions how this will work in practice for the North East and how a workable balance between business and local government finance can be struck.

Lastly, I was very pleased to see the Chancellor’s focus on schools and skills.

These are hugely important issues to the North East and one that is at the forefront of Policy North’s agenda. The Chancellor announced all schools will become academies by 2020, with extra funding to be provided to do this, alongside a review of the schools funding formula which could have a big impact on places like Northumberland and Durham which currently lose out.

Perhaps most interesting was the announcement that Sir Nick Weller will be leading a report on transforming education in the Northern Powerhouse.”

– Stephen Purvis, Chairman of Policy North

Cautious welcome to the budget from North East MEP

George Osborne’s announcement about upgrades to the A66 and A69 have been given a cautious welcome by North East MEP Jonathan Arnott.

“I welcome this move but the million dollar question is when this is likely to come to fruition?

The Chancellor spoke of making the Northern Powerhouse “a reality”. Really? And just when will the people in my constituency start to feel that reality?

“A study into improving the A66 between the A1 and the M6 in Cumbria and the A69 between Hexham and Carlisle commission by the Department of Transport last year is not even due to be completed till the end of this year.

Even the traffic on congested sections moves faster than such bureaucracy.

“We in the North East are fed up with the lack of real commitment to the area. While these remote politicians give us the usual smoke and mirrors the unemployment rate in the region remains the highest in the land"

– North East MEP Jonathan Arnott

Redcar MP: Nothing in budget for Teesside

Anna Turley - the Redcar MP - has responded to today's budget:

"There is nothing for Redcar, or Teesside.

I wanted to finally see action today from the Chancellor to support manufacturing and industry and deliver more skilled jobs but there was nothing.

There were generous cuts to business rates for small businesses and stamp duty on commercial properties but the cost will fall on local government whose budgets have already been decimated, so our local services will be cut even further.

The tax cuts for North Sea oil and gas also come too late to stem the tide of declining profits and lost jobs.

There were some flashy infrastructure announcements such as HS3 and northern motorway upgrades. Yet none of this came north of Leeds, and once again the Northern Powerhouse is exposed as an empty, meaningless slogan.

As the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said today, the Chancellor has to stop just putting a high-vis jacket and helmet on and actually start delivering on the infrastructure we need.

The Chancellor promised upgrades to the A66 and the A19 but warm words alone will not deliver these improved transport links."

– Anna Turley MP

Steel Union: "Sorely disappointing budget for steelworkers"

Redcar's former steelworks Credit: PA

Commenting in response to today’s Budget, Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the steelworkers’ union Community said:

"This was a sorely disappointing Budget for steelworkers.

The government's much heralded review of business rates has failed to deliver the urgent support that the steel industry needs. Steel producers will continue to be penalised with high business rates for the investments they have made, adding uncompetitive costs in a difficult global market.

The march of the steel makers will continue to be along a rocky road, with steel jobs and steel communities under threat of more pain.

"This comes the same day that a European Commission statement on steel demonstrated yet again that the UK government prefers talking to action when it comes to the UK steel industry. The European Commission has made it clear that it advocates an end to the Lesser Duty Rule, which would then enable more punitive tariffs to be placed on unfairly traded steel.

But the UK government is one of the few EU member states which opposes this more robust approach to trade defence measures.

Meanwhile, the US does not hesitate in its support for US steel makers, today slapping a 49% tariff on some UK steel products."

The Prime Minister says our steel making is 'vital' but his government is failing to do all it can to support our steel industry through this crisis."

– Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the steelworkers’ union

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EEF: Government need to do more to support steel

The North East Region Director at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, have given their reaction to the budget 2016.

“Given the weaker outlook for our economy and global volatility, the Chancellor was right to reinforce the importance of Britain remaining in the EU.

Much of what he said today about stability for future generations will mean nothing if the British people vote to leave. The UK would be in uncharted waters, the consequences of which could be highly damaging.

“Another Corporation tax cut is one important lever in keeping investment growth on track.

The continued inclusion, however, of investment in plant and machinery in business rate calculations is a disappointment for the steel industry in particular.

Government will need to do more to support steel this year.”

– Liz Mayes, North East Region Director at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation

Balance say budget has done "nothing" to protect young people from harm caused by alcohol

The Chancellor prepares to leave number 11 to deliver his budget Credit: PA

Balance, the North East alcohol office has given their reaction to the 2016 budget.

They have picked up in particular on the announcement that the duty on some alcohol is to be frozen.

“The Chancellor talked extensively today about doing the right thing by our children and yet has done nothing to protect young people from the devastating harms of the cheapest, strongest alcohol.

“Today would have been the perfect opportunity to target products like cheap white cider and high-strength spirits which are in the top five drinks consumed by children who end up needing help from treatment services. Every year, more than 300 children in our region alone – the young people we need to protect – are admitted to hospital because of alcohol.

“The Government itself estimates alcohol harm costs the UK £21 billion a year, while alcohol taxes raise £9 billion, so it’s hard to see the justification for today’s decision to freeze duty on beer, cider and spirits.

“The irony is that today’s announcement won’t even benefit the pubs and their customers. It will only continue to enable supermarkets to sell alcohol at pocket money prices, contributing to the worrying drinking habits we’re seeing today.

“As our NHS and emergency services struggle to cope with the pressures of alcohol-related harms, it’s a shame the Chancellor didn’t take this opportunity to support our frontline services, help cut crime and protect the most vulnerable people in society.”

– BALANCE North East

Support from North East charity for Northern schools investment

Credit: PA

The charity 'SCHOOLS North East' has backed the Chancellor’s move to appoint Sir Nick Weller to produce a report on driving up education standards across the Northern Powerhouse region.

“The Government has repeatedly stressed its commitment to the North.

Our concern has, to date, been that the Northern Powerhouse doesn’t appear to stretch much beyond the M62 corridor.

SCHOOLS North East was created in 2007 to give schools a voice in regional and national strategies and we will support Sir Nick Weller in his work to ensure there is strong North East representation.”

– Mike Parker, Director of SCHOOLS North East

MP for Newcastle North criticises the budget for failing to address Air Passenger Duty issues

Catherine McKinnell, the MP for Newcastle North, has criticised the Chancellor for failing to mention Air Passenger duty (APD) during the budget.

Earlier this week, the Scottish Government launched a consultation on its proposals to halve APD on flights from Scottish airports between 2018 and 2021, with a view to fully abolishing the charge beyond that date.

‘After many months of prevaricating, George Osborne had the perfect opportunity at today’s Budget to set out how he will ensure that Newcastle Airport is not damaged by APD devolution to Scotland.

‘Instead, we heard not a word about what is a critical issue for the North East, given the massive role played by the Airport in supporting our regional economy.

‘It is totally and utterly unacceptable for the Chancellor to allow this uncertainty to continue, and his continued ‘wait and see’ policy just doesn’t wash.

‘Regional airports like Newcastle need to know now how they will be protected, and any talk of a Northern Powerhouse is completely undermined by the Chancellor’s continued failure on this issue.’

– Catherine McKinnell, the MP for Newacstle North
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