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Welcome to my October email newsletter. It has been a busy but sombre month in parliament, as the Spending Review has been published in full and we celebrate the life, and mourn the death, of James Brokenshire MP and Sir David Amess MP.
Below you’ll find updates on the Budget, local Covid-19 case rates, a new charity in Langley Mill, more support for local pubs, an explanation on proposed amendments to the Environment Bill, and my view on a mayor for the East Midlands.
Autumn Budget & Spending Review
On Wednesday 27th October, the Chancellor released the Autumn Budget and Spending Review, revealing the Government’s plans for spending, taxes, and borrowing. Prior to its release, I expected to see some pretty alarming public finances as a result of the pandemic, and to be fair, we have seen some difficult numbers. The deficits for the last financial year and the current year total £500 billion, and we will still be running a deficit this year of about £130 billion.
However, despite the storm of the pandemic crashing over our economy, it is forecasted that the books will be completely balanced in the financial year after next. I could not possibly have expected that we could go from the economic tempest that was the pandemic, back to balanced public finances in less than a couple of years. This is a tremendous achievement. That we can even forecast that position demonstrates how successful the Government’s measures to save the economy have been over the past 18 months.
The success of these forecasts depends largely upon the growth of our economy. At the minute, the UK economy is growing faster than our major international competitors, more people are in work, and growth is up. However, uncertainty in the global economy means that this rate of recovery is not guaranteed. Therefore, we need to focus on what more we can do to increase the long-term trend in the rate of growth. That is why we need to make sure that the very welcome measures to increase investment, improve skills, and boost productivity are driven through and made to work.
Policies of particular interest to the residents of Amber Valley include:
. More money for local NHS services and schools;
. Increasing the National Living Wage by 6.6% to £9.50;
. The end of the public sector pay freeze;
. A 5% cut to pub beer duty through a new Draught Relief, simplifying wider alcohol duties and freezing fuel duty;
. Cutting business rates by at least 50% next year for 90% of retail, hospitality and leisure businesses;
. A reduction in the universal credit taper from the current 63p to 55p – allowing claimants who are in work to keep more of their benefits, ensuring that being in work pays more.
Speaking in the House of Commons on 27th October, I wholeheartedly welcomed the Autumn Budget and Spending Review. I believe it to be a hugely powerful budget that sets our country and economy in the right direction. It shows a welcome improvement in the public finances and delivers on many of the priorities of Amber Valley residents.
Local Covid-19 and Vaccination Update
558 Positive cases have been confirmed in Amber Valley over the last 7 days, that’s 433 cases per 100,000 people. This remains below the national average for England, which currently stands at 484 cases per 100,000 people.o
The number of people testing positive for coronavirus in Amber Valley has been fluctuating since restrictions in England were lifted on 19th July, and as predicted, case rates began to increase considerably as we moved through autumn into the colder months. This led to some of the highest case rates we have seen in our constituency, with 157 people testing positive on the 4th October. However, despite some projections that case rates would continue to rise, they have actually been falling consistently throughout this month, so that the 7 day average for positive cases currently sits at 79.
Compared to last winter, hospitalisations relating to coronavirus continue to remain well below what we would expect, given the relatively high prevalence of the virus in the community. It is clear for the time being, that while health services in Amber Valley remain under some strain, owing in no small part to the unprecedented backlog in treatments, the risk of it being overwhelmed remains low. It is for this reason, therefore, that I do not support the introduction of so-called “plan-b” coronavirus restrictions at this time.
Our first line of defence against this virus continues to be our exemplary vaccination rollout, a terrific local and national effort. With everyone over the age of 50 being offered a booster jab, I urge anyone who is eligible to come forward and get jabbed. To protect themselves, our community, and our local health services.
As with the first doses of the vaccine, when you are eligible you should be notified by text, letter, or by your GP to arrange a booking. However, if you think you are eligible but have not been notified you can book the booster by calling 119 or online via the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/book-or-manage-a-booster-dose-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine/
Breast Milk Hub opening – Langley Mill
Earlier this month, I was honoured to open Lauren’s Milk Hub in Langley Mill. This new Hub will help provide donor human breast milk that can then be transported to neonatal intensive care units (NICU) at hospitals across the East Midlands. It is an excellent addition to our local health networks as it will allow more sick and premature babies in the region to receive safe, screened donor milk.
Support for Local Pubs
On the 20th October I met with Emma McClarkin, Head of the British Beer and Pub Association, to sign a petition calling on the Government to lower draught beer duty ahead of the autumn budget. I am delighted that upon release of the budget, the Chancellor announced that tax on draught beer and cider will indeed be cut by 5%. The duty cut will bring down the cost of a pint by 3p, or as much as 25p for beer below 3.5% ABV.
The local pub is at the heart of many of our communities in Amber Valley, and is vital for creating jobs, boosting the local economy, and combatting loneliness and social isolation. In our constituency alone, pubs support 1,103 jobs and contribute £25m per year to the local economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an especially difficult time for pubs, and local owners and staff have made clear to me how precarious the past 2 years have been.
Therefore, I am very pleased that the Government has continued to demonstrate its firm commitment to this most vital industry. With the lower duty on draught beer set to help our locals in Amber Valley thrive.
Many constituents have recently been in contact with me to raise concerns about access to GP appointments following the pandemic. I’m very grateful for the work of our GPs, and all our NHS, throughout Covid-19 and always, and so I raised this issue in the House with the Secretary of State during Health & Social Care Questions to see how we can support both GPs and constituents. I welcome the recent announcement of a £250 million winter access fund for GPs as a positive step, and I will continue to follow this closely.
Investment in the East Midlands
In Parliament on the 26th of this month, I urged the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, to make progress on devolution and additional investment in the East Midlands. Our region has looked with some deserved envy at neighbouring regions that have elected mayors and have successfully attracted more investment.
It is my firm belief that the East Midlands would benefit greatly from an elected mayor to represent the region on the national stage. However, in the meantime I also reminded the Secretary of State that Derbyshire stands ready for a county deal of investment and would appreciate being a pathfinder for this scheme. You can see my question and the debate in full here.
As always, if there are any street repairs in your area, such as potholes, pavement repairs or broken street lights, you can report these issues and concerns to me quickly and easily here so I can ask for the repairs to be investigated and addressed.
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Promoted by Nigel Mills MP, of Unicorn House, Wellington Street, Ripley, Derbyshire, DE5 3EH.
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