Low income families across Fens to be 'more rewarded', says chancellor

Chancellor Rishi Sunak in Peterborough

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said struggling families in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire will be rewarded for their hard work while on a visit to Peterborough. - Credit: HM TREASURY

Struggling families across Fenland and East Cambridgeshire will be rewarded for their hard work, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said.

Speaking on a visit to Peterborough yesterday (Thursday), Mr Sunak said families on Universal Credit (UC) will see “a huge increase in their take-home pay”. 

The extra pay will help them to tackle the impact of inflation as part of the government’s 'levelling up' strategy.  

 Chancellor Rushi Sunak visit to Peterborough

Chancellor Rushi Sunak visit to Peterborough - Credit: HM TREASURY

At a press conference attended by regional journalists, he told me: “I’m cognisant that some families are struggling and need support, and that’s why we’ve announced series of different things to help people through the winter.”  

He said one of the measures he had announced in the autumn Budget was to cut the UC taper rate to 55 per cent from 63pc by no later than December 1.  

This is the rate of which a claimant loses their benefits – for instance – claimants would lose 55p from every extra pound they earn, as opposed to 63p.  

Both Fenland and East Cambridgeshire have seen an increase in the number of UC claimants from September, rising to 9,318 and 4,531 respectively as of October 14.  

 Chancellor Rushi Sunak visit to Peterborough

Chancellor Rushi Sunak visit to Peterborough - Credit: HM TREASURY

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Speaking at the new Anglia Ruskin University, Mr Sunak said: “This will benefit around two million people who will see a huge increase in their take-home pay, rewarding their efforts and hard work.   

“This is making sure they can keep more of their money and that will be coming into force in a matter of weeks.” 

NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay hoped that more 'levelling up' funding from government can be pumped into Fenland to “transform” prospects. 

 Chancellor Rushi Sunak visit to Peterborough

Chancellor Rushi Sunak visit to Peterborough - Credit: HM TREASURY

Mr Sunak also told me levelling up in rural areas was a priority.  

He hoped this would help to boost transport projects, like the Wisbech to March rail link.

“Local transport is important and I’m glad (it’s improving), whether it’s an upgrade to the A14 or new zero emission buses,” he said.  

 Chancellor Rushi Sunak visit to Peterborough

Chancellor Rushi Sunak visit to Peterborough - Credit: HM TREASURY

“I think the government is responding to local priorities and that’s what the Levelling Up Fund is about.   

“It’s about saying to local communities 'where can we make the biggest difference to your area?”  

 Chancellor Rushi Sunak visit to Peterborough

Chancellor Rushi Sunak visit to Peterborough - Credit: HM TREASURY

Mr Sunak did not confirm how much of the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund would be designated for Fenland and East Cambridgeshire.  

But he said more funding for local councils alongside an increase in the national living wage will be “a huge help to millions of families”. 

Mr Sunak was on a visit to the new university to see how £20m of government funding will change the site off Bishop’s Road into an interactive science lab and education space for 1,700 STEM students. 

The new campus is due to create over 500 jobs, with part of the space open to the public to showcase Peterborough’s net-zero ambitions. 

These are to be shown through events, exhibitions, immersive displays and evening classes. 

“It has been fantastic to see levelling up in action,” said Mr Sunak. 

“£20 million from our Levelling Up Fund is transforming the site into a vibrant cultural hub that local people can be proud of, all while boosting jobs and the economy.”    

Reporter Dan Mason with Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Reporter Dan Mason with the Chancellor Rishi Sunak during his visit to Peterborough. - Credit: Daniel Mason

The Chancellor also met business owners in the city, and learnt about the Living Lab project, which will be part of the new university quarter cultural hub. 

The Living Lab aims to create and connect existing and new museums, an arts venue and two libraries as well as two theatres.

Professor Ross Renton, principal of ARU Peterborough, praised the government’s ‘levelling up’ funding. 

He said: “This will help us deliver state-of-the-art facilities which will be of enormous benefit to our students, the people of Peterborough and the wider region.” 

ARU Peterborough is due to open in September 2022 to up to 2,000 students. 

Another measure announced in the autumn Budget was funding for 30 zero emission buses across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. 

Investment in local transport improvements has also been pledged, as well as filling potholes. 

This is alongside improvements made to major roads in the region, including six A47 dualling and upgrade schemes between Peterborough and Great Yarmouth. 

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