Last week saw the UK Chancellor make his autumn statement alongside the Office of Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) economic forecast. Some of the headlines seemed to suggest welcome ‘tax cuts’, but in reality the tax changes announced by the Chancellor mean the tax burden is now the highest since the Second World War. The Chancellor announced a 2p reduction in National Insurance but both the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Resolution Foundation said the tax cuts will be paid for by the biggest real-terms cut to government spending since austerity. That’s not all, by 2027-28, 3.2 million people will be dragged into paying basic rate tax, 2.1 million higher rate tax and 400,000 paying additional rate due to the threshold freeze.
The Autumn Statement really is a missed opportunity to boost Wales’ economy and help to tackle the cost-of-living crisis that’s hitting so many people in communities across the country – the OBR forecasts that living standards will be 3.5% lower next year than before the pandemic, the largest fall in living standards since records began in the 1950s. The Welsh Government has consistently pressed the Treasury to contribute to coal tip safety in Wales, to boost funding for us to further invest in our hard-pressed public services and to declassify the HS2 rail project as England-only, releasing millions for Wales to spend on our transport infrastructure. If Wales’ budget had kept pace with the growth in the economy since 2010, we would have an additional £3bn to spend on public services in Wales in 2024-25. Instead, the Chancellor’s multi-billion-pound giveaway on personal and business taxes was achieved by deciding not to protect public services against the rising cost of inflation.
Saturday was the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – also known as White Ribbon Day – an annual day to highlight the violence and abuse which women and girls still face far, far too often, whether that is at home or in the community. Earlier in the week I attended the White Ribbon candlelit vigil at the Senedd and White Ribbon Day gives us the opportunity to collectively pledge to “never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women”. White Ribbon UK encouraged individuals and organisations to make consistent choices and actions to #ChangeTheStory for women and girls, so that they may live their lives free from the fear of violence.
The National Lottery has announced that it’s changing the way it provides its Awards for All funding – projects in Wales will be able to apply for funding between £300 and £20,000 to support their projects for up to two years, an increase from the current £10,000 over one year. You can apply for funding to deliver new or existing activities or to support your organisation to change and adapt to new and future challenges – the Awards for All funding provides grants for projects that either bring people together to build strong relationships in and across communities, improve the places and spaces that matter to communities or to help more people to reach their potential by supporting them. Most of the grants awarded are small grants – you can find out more at www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/funding/programmes/national-lottery-awards-for-all-wales.
Last week I spoke at the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) awards in my role as a Welsh Government minister. The ERS was launched in 2014 to recognise those employers who support the Armed Forces community and awards bronze, silver or gold awards to those who sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant and go above and beyond to welcome veterans or reservists and work within their local areas to promote the Armed Forces community. The skills and experiences of our Armed Forces community are a huge asset and, as a government, we see the considerable value of our Armed Forces and appreciate all that they contribute to our economy and our communities across Wales, so I was particularly pleased to see Mike Joy from Delyn Safety UK Ltd in Mold receive a gold award, as well as many other businesses across Wales.
As always, if you would like advice and/or support, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on any of the following contact details – 52 High Street, Mold, Flintshire, on 01352 753464 or by email email@example.com. You can also keep up to date via my Facebook page – www.facebook.com/HannahBlythynForDelyn. Constituents are, of course, welcome to contact my office to arrange an appointment to see me, you don’t need to wait until an advice surgery.