Derbyshire Times Column

As published in the Derbyshire Times, 7th November 2013

We’ve had yet more encouraging news on the economy over the past few weeks. Unemployment here in Amber Valley has fallen to 3% – down from 3.2% in September and 4.3% at the time of the general election in 2010.

The figures are particularly encouraging because this data is for the period in which I held the first Amber Valley Jobs Fair on Friday 6th September.

I know from the feedback that I’ve had from local businesses that the fair was a success. Just a few examples include fourteen new members of staff at the Co-Operative Group, three at GI Group in Ripley, three at the Derbyshire Hotel, seven at Vaillant, and dozens at Thorntons.

We also saw the ONS announce that the UK economy grew by 0.8% in the last quarter. That’s fantastic news, and it shows that Britain is turning a corner thanks to our economic plan. We must stay the course – growth and stability depend on it.

Over the course of this parliament, I have consistently campaigned on the cost of living. I’ve raised the need to take action on fuel and beer duties. Fuel is now 13p cheaper than it would be under Labour because we’ve frozen duty at every opportunity, and we scrapped the beer duty escalator at the last Budget.  From April next year, the Government will offer tax-free childcare, meeting 20% of childcare costs for families with children under the age of 12. Our structural deficit reduction programme has seen confidence restored in the markets and mortgages kept low.

We have also taken action on Income Tax. At the last budget, the Chancellor reaffirmed his commitment to raising the Personal Allowance to £10,000 by next April, saving 33,000 of my constituents £700 per year, and taking 3,000 out of Income Tax. This is a great achievement, but we should go further. It’s only right that ordinary people that work hard get to keep more of their own money.

I’m pleased to announce that this week I launched a petition to raise Personal Allowance to the level of the National Minimum Wage, and have it track that level each year. This move would take a further 1,500 of my constituents out of Income Tax, and cut it by £460 each year for 33,000 more.

You can help me deliver this by signing my petition at www.12ktaxfree.co.uk.

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service recently published its consultation on the future of fire services in the county. Its proposals include building a new station on the A610 close to Ripley, and closing the Heanor, Alfreton and Ripley fire stations. The Service claims that this would provide good access to all of the towns and villages it serves here in Amber Valley.

While there are some advantages to these proposals including a reduced response time for some high risk areas eg Hollywell Avenue in Codnor, there are significant downsides including higher response times to other high risk areas including in Heanor and Langley Mill. I find it very hard to justify such an outcome.

The Fire & Rescue Service actually estimates the net cost of the new station to be £2.8 million, and an annual increase in running costs of £121,000. I met with representatives from the Fire & Rescue Service last week to discuss my concerns that a reorganisation that on first appearance provides a lesser service for higher cost looks like a bad idea all round!