As this will be the last Gale’s View before parliament dissolves on March 30 and we go into candidate-mode for the general election on May 7, this seems the right moment to pause before, I hope, normal service will be resumed. The economy is now out of intensive care and well on the road to full recovery. While healthcare and education and policing and defence and immigration and welfare and overseas aid and other issues are all, of course, going to feature on election agendas it is an indisputable fact that everything that everybody wants for themselves, for their families and for our country stems from the strength or weakness of the economy. Without growth and sound money, aspirations are impossible to meet. Chancellor George Osborne is first to admit that although the government is “mending the roof while the sun is shining” there is still a great deal to be done. More constraints will be placed upon the spending of tax payers’ money on public services if we are to retain our widely-envied place as one of the strongest and fastest-growing economies in the developed world.
What has been achieved to date has been at a cost in austerity that has had an impact upon every family in the country. As a result, there are now more people in work with full-time jobs than at any time in our history and fewer people on benefits than for a very long time. By raising the level of the personal tax threshold to, first, £10,800 and then to £11,000 some 5.5 million people will have been taken out of tax altogether. The Institute of Fiscal Studies confirmed family incomes are at last higher in real terms than they were when the coalition took office in 2010. Knocking a penny off the cost of a pint of beer may seem like a gimmick but for the third year running duty has been cut and the continued freeze on fuel duty means real savings every time the family car is filled. It has been fashionable to talk about NHS cuts but the facts contradict the Left-wing rhetoric. Spending on health services have increased dramatically over the lifetime of this government. Nationally and locally there are more consultants, more doctors and more nurses employed and while the figures that I have before me cover a seven – and not a five-year period, it is for the serial critics an uncomfortable reality that most of those increases, together with a huge rise in the number of patients treated by our hospitals, have taken place during the lifetime of this government. Our Armed Forces are both solvent and better equipped and much long-term commitment to spending has been made.
We are now in a position to be able to increase spending on education generally and on school buildings in particular. I have said that our determination to maintain our spending upon overseas aid Is both right and honourable. During the coming weeks I will seek to address every issue raised with me. But while I recognise that individuals and households have equally individual and very specific priorities, the coming election will be determined by who people want to run their country as Prime Minister, who people want and trust to represent them and to fight their corner locally and, above all, how the needs of our nation will be met and paid for financially.
Herne Bay Gazette, March 26th 2015