I've been so preoccupied by Walley's that I haven't had time to post this yet, but I spoke in the Budget Debate on the same day as my 10 Minute Rule Bill.
The Budget announced last week by Rishi Sunak was brilliant and delivers for our town. It was also honest about the difficult financial situation we are in and the freezes in personal allowance and rises to corporation tax that will be needed (though small companies will retain lower rates of corporation tax).
Furlough has been extended - it's supported over 10,000 jobs here in Newcastle; the self-employed are getting more grants; there is a universal credit extension for a further six months and equivalent support of £500 for those on working tax credits; there are business restart grants and recovery loans; and there are freezes to alcohol duty and fuel duty.
The Chancellor is delivering for towns like Newcastle-under-Lyme. Weirdly, Labour are criticising our Government's focus on towns, so I took the opportunity to quote their own words back at them:
"For far too long the ambitions, needs and values of nine million people in towns across Britain have not been heard.
"Our economic model treats cities as engines of growth, which at best drag surrounding towns along in their wake, causing life to become harder, less secure and less hopeful for too many people in towns in recent decades.
"Our political system is blind to the values and experiences of people who live in our towns, wrongly treating cities as a proxy for the national opinion.
"After the EU referendum starkly exposed the growing gulf between towns and cities, it is clear that this is no longer sustainable."
These were the words of Labour's Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, as she launched the Centre for Towns in December 2017. I completely agree with what she said then, but it's clear given what happened next that her party didn't.
Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn (and Sir Keir Starmer as Chief Remainer) spent the next 2 years trying to reverse the referendum result, whilst the Conservatives took the towns agenda to heart and invented the Future High Streets Fund (from which we've received £11m) and the Town Deal concept. Kidsgrove received £16.9m as a Town Deal on Tuesday - well done Jonathan Gullis MP! - and our £25m bid for Newcastle is currently being considered.
I make absolutely no apology for the Government's focus on towns and will keep pushing the case for more Government investment in Newcastle. Rishi Sunak also announced a new UK community renewal fund on Tuesday, and has made Newcastle-under-Lyme a priority area for that. This will enable us to bid for a further £3 million, supporting skills, local businesses, communities and place, and supporting people into employment.
Having seen her ideas rejected, Lisa Nandy then ran against Sir Keir Starmer for the Labour leadership. Personally, I think they should have elected her if they wanted to win back the "Red Wall" - as MP for a town like Wigan she at least understands the issues here. Instead they picked Sir Keir - an MP who represents a constituency even closer to the centre of London than Islington's Jeremy Corbyn.
You can watch my contribution here: https://facebook.com/AaronBell4NUL/videos/1873817419445375/