Westminster Comment - Concern over budget announcement

It has been a busy few weeks in Westminster with the announcement of the budget.

It is good to see the Chancellor has responded to calls from the SNP and the oil & gas industry to reduce the headline rate of tax, with petroleum revenue tax being zero rated and the supplementary charge reduced from 20 % to 10%.

However, the budget shows that the UK government have failed on key economic indicators.

Indeed they have missed the targets they set for themselves with debt, deficit and borrowing levels even worse than were promised last Autumn.

This week, we saw the announcement from the Scottish Government about the new arrangements for the future of employability services in Scotland.

Under the arrangements made from the Smith Commission, the DWP contracted employability services will now be under the control of the Scottish Government.

The devolution of some employment programmes will provide an opportunity to develop more effective and better aligned services that help more people in Scotland into fair work.

However, in late 2015, as part of the UK Government Spending Review, the UK Government announced their decision to cut future expenditure on employment support by 87%.

In practice, this means that the DWP’s current estimated expenditure on employment support of £800m - £1bn per annum will be replaced with a Work and Health Programme where spending will rise to £130m across the UK by 2020-21.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions confirmed on 16 December 2015 that devolved employment services will be subject to the same scale of reductions.

The Scottish Government will enhance the indicative DWP programme spend for Scotland for 2017-2018 of £7m, so that up to an additional £20m is available to provide employment support through the newly devolved services in that year.

I hope that this programme will be a help and assistance to folks, giving people a support when they require it.

I am very concerned that there are many of us in West Aberdeenshire who are finding life extremely difficult at the moment, the austerity agenda of the UK government seems to be hitting the most vulnerable of our community hard.

Last week I spoke in a debate on pathways fro resettlement of Syrian refugees.

I was proud to talk about what Aberdeenshire and Scotland more widely is doing to support refugees coming here.

Aberdeenshire has so far welcomed nine families through the the vulnerable person’s relocation scheme.

Aberdeenshire Council must be commended for the work they have done in working with community and faith groups, credit unions and universities and colleges to ensure these families are able to transition and settle as smoothly as possible.

These are people who have been through incredibly traumatic times so it has been heartwarming to see the solidarity and compassion expressed towards them. Finally, last week I achieved a childhood dream and appeared on CBBC. The programme “All Over the Workplace” followed 10 year old Charlotte and Henrietta as they found out what it is like to work in politics, for, Westminster to the BBC.

It was great to see the two girls so interested in politics and the democratic process.

As ever if I can be of any assistance please don’t hesitate to contact me on 01330 828171 or Stuart.donaldson.mp@parliament.uk