WESTMINSTER is dominated by last week’s budget, eagerly awaited by many in Wigan, but disappointing in that it takes away with one hand what it gives with the other.
The biggest disappointment is the lack of help for young unemployed people who are forecast to reach one million for the first time this spring.
Nearly one in 10 young people in Wigan are without a job, and while the biggest companies will now pay a staggering £450 million less tax and overseas taxpayers got off scot free in the budget, unemployed young people got just £20million in help .
In real terms that is just £20 each that will go towards apprenticeships and other schemes.
The long awaited announcement about whether the Education Maintenance Allowance, which gave help to poorer college students, would be replaced was taken out of the budget. This will be a shattering disappointment to students at John Rigby, Wigan and Leigh and Winstanley Colleges who have campaigned for it to stay and are anxiously awaiting news about whether they will be able to afford to stay on at college next year.
There was also really bad news for an already hard hit pub trade as the price of beer went up by 10p yesterday.
Pubs in Britain closed at the rate of seven a day last year and Wigan, with its tradition of good quality community pubs like the Anvil, the Globe and the Lychgate, is feeling the pressure.
There was some good news for motorists, many of whom have written to me over the last months about rocketing fuel prices.
The fuel duty was cut by a penny in the budget, but with it rising by three pence just a few months ago, many in Wigan won’t feel it is enough help.
The 1p tax cut is significant for another reason though – the Chancellor has shown he can afford to cut taxes if he needs to.
It will make many people in Wigan wonder why their Sure Starts and libraries are closing, their benefits are being slashed and public sector workers are being laid off.
All this when the Chancellor has shown he can conjure up a bit of cash if he really thinks not doing so will cause him a headache.