Being your MP is a huge privilege and I wish you all a happy Christmas and a successful and healthy 2023! As we near the end of the year I wanted to reflect on 2022 as well as update you on what I have been doing in the local community.
This year has seen many challenges - whether that is the rising cost of energy or the war in Ukraine. We have mourned the sad passing of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and the start of a new chapter in our nation’s history, with the proclamation of our new monarch, King Charles III.
It has been heart-warming to see our communities came together to mark the life and legacy of Her late Majesty, organising books of condolence and attending the many proclamation events for the King.
I know that the cost of living is a real concern, and I am helping constituents across our area find the support and advice they need. To help households, the Chancellor has extended the Energy Bills Support scheme until 2024 and there will be further help for those on means tested benefits and for pensioners. From April, the Energy Price Guarantee will be kept for a further 12 months at a higher level of £3000 per year for the average household. With prices forecasted to remain elevated through next year, this will mean an average of £500 support for every household in the country.
I welcome the Chancellor’s decision to increase pension credit and benefits by 10.1% in line with inflation, worth up to £1470 for a couple and £960 for a single pensioner in the most vulnerable households. The Triple Lock will be protected and in April 2023, the state pension will increase in line with inflation by £870.
In spite of the difficulties faced by many at home, local communities in South Northamptonshire have played a generous part in helping Ukrainian refugees. I have seen first-hand the kindness that many have displayed to those who have fled the war - from collecting supplies to send to Ukraine to arranging welcoming community events, South Northants has embraced our Ukrainian guests. My office has dealt many Ukrainian resettlement cases since the scheme was launched in March and my team and I are pleased to have played our part in supporting those families as they make a new life in the UK.
Here in Boddington, I continue to work on behalf of my constituents on HS2 issues, taking up individual cases and regularly attending the HS2 Liaison Group that I set up when first elected. This is a good forum to raise concerns with HS2, West Northamptonshire Council and other stakeholders and I encourage constituents that want to attend to do so. I am particularly concerned about the impact of HS2’s construction activities in the local area, and the cumulative effect of construction traffic alongside other projects like the construction of the Towcester Relief Road. I continue to raise these concerns with National Highways, HS2 and the Council and to work for a resolution.
In Parliament, I have spoken in debates, statements and urgent questions on behalf of my constituents throughout the year on a variety of topics and participated in debates on the economy, energy and migration. I also secured an adjournment debate on air quality in Towcester, local bus routes, a Westminster Hall debate on Infant Mental Health and a debate on kinship care.
I have become chairman of the 1922 Backbench Business Committee, working with colleagues and business representatives to promote new policies to the government. Our first inquiry looked at how energy bills could be reduced for consumers and businesses, with subsequent inquiries investigating deep geothermal as a source of energy and practical solutions to provide better support for entrepreneurs.
I have also been proud to continue leading the Early Years Healthy Development Review, working across government to implement the Vision for the 1001 Critical Days to help every baby get the best start for life.
Finally, I was excited to publish a book, Snakes and Ladders, that I wrote during the pandemic reflecting on the highs and lows of politics since 2010. Any author’s profits will go to early years charities.
Best wishes for a peaceful Christmas and a happy and healthy 2023!