'It favours high earners': Residents struggle to see how mini-budget will help them

Shoppers and business owners in Bridgnorth remain unconvinced by measures to tackle the cost of living announced by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.

Craig Cheatham, from Arley, at Bridgnorth Cobbler
Craig Cheatham, from Arley, at Bridgnorth Cobbler

Shop owners said they had already been feeling the effect of a feared increase in utility bills and a downturn in the number of people using the high street.

Mr Kwarteng announced the basic rate of income tax would be reduced by one percentage point to 19 per cent in April – one year earlier than planned. He also unveiled a cut to the top rate of income tax from 45 per cent to 40 and a cut on stamp duty for home purchases, with the threshold rising to £425,000 for first-time buyers and £250,000

The cap on bankers’ bonuses being lifted generally proved unpopular, while the rise in the stamp duty threshold was welcomed by those who had children buying their first homes.

David and Tracy Durbin are now mortgage free and this year brought a mobile home in Riverway, dividing their time between there and Walsall.

Tracy said: “We have nine kids between us and grandkids and they struggle to get on the property ladder – this won’t really help as the homes they would be looking to buy wouldn’t be over £400,000. But the basic rate of income tax being cut won’t mean much difference for the average working-class person."

David and Tracy Durbin

David said: “The measures seem to favour those who already have a high income, like the bankers, those who earn enough to pay the top rate of income tax or those who can afford to buy their own home which isn’t the norm now.

“We have had our time but I feel sorry for our kids and grandchildren because they are going to have it hard in the years to come.”

Brian Beard was enjoying a lunchtime pint outside of the Jewel of the Severn and said he hadn’t seen anything in the announcement that would benefit him.

Brian Beard

Stephanie Henshaw has lived in Bridgnorth all her life but has a daughter living in London who is on the property ladder and trying to buy another home for around £750,000

She said: “She has a good job and the cut in stamp duty probably won’t affect her as it is above that but it seems you only benefit if you are already a high earner.

“The reduction in income tax is something but it’s not going to leave that much more money in the average person’s pocket, those who earn normal wages won’t benefit too much, especially with the proposed increase in electricity prices.

Chris Walsh, the landlord of The Royle pub said they were lucky they had negotiated a good deal on electric and heating bills for the next year but still said the costs had ‘rocketed’ in the last year.

He welcomed the new Energy Bill Relief Scheme which would provide a discount to all firms for six months from October, with businesses having bills capped at ‘less than half’ of the announced increases.

Landlord of The Royle, Chris Walsh

Chris said: “The stated intention was to get businesses through the winter and it will probably help us do that but it all depends on how many people are coming into the pub and spending money and it looks like it’s going to a long hard run for the average person who is looking to cut down on luxuries like nights out or meals.”

Craig Cheatham of the Bridgnorth Cobbler in the town centre had been studying the mini-budget and said he didn’t see much in it that would bring people back to the high street.

He said: “It’s OK for a lot of people in London who have to be high earners to live there in the first place but the footfall in Bridgnorth High Street has been very low recently, there are a number of shops closing and we have been very quiet.

“The scrapping in the rise of National Insurance and the cut in income tax is estimated to make the average person around £450 better off but when you offset that against the rise in the general cost of living it isn’t much.”

John Pasaras who has run High Town Grill and Chip Shop for the last 22 years welcomed the cap on energy bills but said he still has to cover the increased costs in raw materials.

John Pasaras, owner of High Town Grill and Chip Shop

He said: “Any small business owner has to cover increased costs as has been well documented but then also take into account the general picture for the average person who are there customers and whether they are still going to come out to the high street and shop.

“I welcome the news earlier in the week of the cap on energy prices but I don’t see much today for small businesses or the person earning an average wage - the focus has been more on the high earners and cutting corporation tax which doesn’t really affect small businesses like you find on Bridgnorth high street.

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