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Politics: New services show growing confidence in the north-east economy

By David Porter

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In his Spring Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced measures the UK Government are taking to help ease the pressure of the rising cost of living.

For motorists across Banff and Buchan, especially in the rural areas, the 5p per litre cut in fuel duty will be very welcome.

From July this year the National Insurance threshold will be equalised with income tax, meaning workers can earn an additional £3,000 before having to pay any National Insurance.

For a typical worker, this will mean £330 more in their pockets.

The Chancellor also doubled the UK Household Support Fund which means an additional £41 million for the Scottish Government.

I hope that they will pass that on to the equivalent scheme in Scotland.

In addition to this, the UK Government will provide a Warm Home discount scheme to run until 2026 and extend the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) at an increased value, UK wide, also until 2026.

The Warm Home Discount has been a successful fuel poverty scheme since 2011, providing over £3bn of cumulative assistance to low-income households across Great Britain.

The reformed ECO scheme will increase the focus on low-income households in the least energy efficient homes, reducing energy bills, saving carbon and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Nearly 13 per cent of Scottish households have already benefitted from the scheme since its introduction in 2013.

Last month, I was honoured to be invited to open the DWP Wellbeing Fair in Fraserburgh which brought dozens of service providers together with service users.

This included the local council, community councils, charities, NESCol and even the local Men’s Shed.

It was great to see such a healthy turnout and to see the many ways that people can access support.

This includes, among others, veterans who all too often find it particularly hard to get support which is why I was pleased to hear the Veteran’s Minister commit to supporting them when I asked him about it in the House.

I joined EasyJets's Ali Gayward, Aberdeen Airport's Mark Beveridge and MSP Liam Kerr at the launch of the new link.
I joined EasyJets's Ali Gayward, Aberdeen Airport's Mark Beveridge and MSP Liam Kerr at the launch of the new link.

It is fantastic to see yet another new seasonal air route opening up to Manchester from Aberdeen along with the new double-daily Gatwick flight.

It was not too long ago that services were being removed from Aberdeen - even before Covid - and this has been detrimental to the airport and the local economy.

So, this reversal in trend is welcome.

Of course, this is great news for tourists and business travellers from the region but I also look forward to more people travelling here for the business and tourism opportunities that this region has to offer.

Finally, I join residents of Banff and Buchan in horror at the images coming out of Ukraine, of apparent mass slaughter of civilians by invading Russian forces.

I am proud that the UK is leading the way in providing military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and on building the case against Putin for war crimes.

The UK is also taking in thousands of fleeing Ukrainians through the family visa and homes for Ukraine scheme.

It is gratifying to see so many local residents offering to open up their homes and I have been glad to help with individual cases.

I stand ready to assist with other constituents in Banff and Buchan who have sponsored Ukrainians or have family coming from Ukraine and urge them to get in touch with my office.

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