Shropshire Star

Have National Insurance cut and duty freezes done enough to woo Shropshire voters?

Jeremy Hunt froze fuel and alcohol duty in his pre-election budget, but will it be enough to woo Salopians to vote for the Tories?


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The Chancellor also unveiled tax cuts including a 2p National Insurance reduction, which the Government says will put an extra £450 in the pockets of the average worker.

However, there was bad news for landlords, smokers and vapers, with crackdowns and increases to be introduced.

A general election is expected this year. A YouGov poll suggested that Labour would have taken three Shropshire seats and the Conservatives two if an election had been held in January this year. The national fallout from Brexit, the management of the Covid pandemic and the number of political scandals have left the Tories clinging on to power.

One of those Conservative constituencies which is considered under serious threat is Shrewsbury and Atcham. Daniel Kawczynski has been the town's MP for almost 19 years.

We took to Shrewsbury Market Hall, the nation's favourite market, to see whether this budget genuinely helps people in the county, and whether it will affect how they vote when the election comes around.

Dave Goddard runs the comic book and army surplus stall, Sorted. But did he feel that Mr Hunt has Sorted a budget to win votes?

Not necessarily; he felt the Chancellor missed out on an easy way of wooing the public.

"They could have put the tax threshold up to £13,000 or £14,000," he said. "I think that would have helped a lot of people."

Dave, who lives in Castlefields, also hoped to see more help for young people trying to get on the property ladder in this latest budget.

Dave Goddard at the Shrewsbury Market Hall outside his stall, Sorted

"I'd have liked to have seen a bit of help for the youngsters," he said. "My sons are trying to get on the property ladder and it's not easy.

"I'm more of a Labour voter usually. I think if you can help people you should. I've paid tax for 44 years and I always think it goes towards schools and other things we need."

Dave has had his stall in the award-winning town centre market for the last nine years, but, despite the cost-of living crisis, has remained busy.

Judith and Ray Gordon shared Dave's sentiments about the tax threshold as they relaxed outside the Moli Tea House.

"The threshold has stayed the same for an awfully long time," said Judith, a retired barrister who now pens historical books centred in Shrewsbury.

"On the National Insurance, we don't pay it anyway and there are a lot of people who are retired who that won't affect, but making a change to the personal allowance threshold would have helped lots of people."

Ray, who was a director at one of the world's top accountancy firms, said he watched Mr Hunt's budget to see "democracy in action" and was impressed by how Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing controlled the shouting and arguing among the politicians in the House of Commons.

"She was much better than him (Sir Lindsay Hoyle)," he said. "They (the politicians) looked like they'd been told off by their mothers!"

He would like to see changes to pensions. "I paid in half a million over 10 years but to receive it all back, I'd have to live to about 175," he said.

Asked whether the budget does enough to win their vote, it was a resounding no from the Gordons. They are likely to vote for Reform.

"The Tories have been in power for 14 years," Judith said. "During that time, free speech has taken a dive. So has personal liberty, and the power of the state has grown."

She added that the Conservatives have "presided over the biggest influx of illegal immigrants we've ever had."

"As much as I was a natural Tory voter, they have failed," she said.

Angela Jones runs Moli Tea House, which specialises in Chinese tea, dumplings and street food.

Angela Jones from Moli Tea House in Shrewsbury Market Hall

On the budget, she said: "I didn't embrace it. Energy bills and the costs of buying stuff in are just going up. It's not so bad when it's one thing, but when it's everything..."

"We're probably making the same profits as three or four years ago even though we're busier. It's difficult but you have to adapt."

However, she did say Britain is "not that bad," and that we are "well looked after" compared to some countries around the world.