Last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, presented his autumn statement to the House of Commons, setting out the difficult decisions we have to take over the next two years, to bring down inflation, ensure public spending is at sustainable levels, and support those who need it most. The problems we face are not unique to this country. In Europe and America, the impact of the war in Ukraine, has similarly caused rising prices for energy and food. We also have a legacy of high government debt, because of the financial crisis of 2007/8 and the COVID-19 pandemic. With these events the decision was taken to support financial institutions to prevent their collapse, and then to protect people and businesses that were unable to work because of the lockdown restrictions. These were the right decisions to take, but the legacy of them is that we have high levels of debt that we now have to control and bring down. This will mean a steady increase in taxation over the next few years, and the need for constraint in the increase of public spending. However, the government has committed an extra £11 billion for the NHS and schools, and helping the most vulnerable with the cost of living. This includes protecting the triple lock for pensions, to ensure that they increase in line with wages, prices or at least 2.5%, whichever is the greater.
Ultimately, the best way to ensure long term prosperity is to bring stability and create certainty for businesses to invest in the economy. It is also important that the government continues, as it is doing, to invest in long term infrastructure projects like nuclear power, gigabit broadband and high speed rail, which will all support future economic growth.
Last Friday I joined the staff and pupils of Dymchurch Primary School for a special ‘Be Internet Legends’ assembly delivered by Google. The event was also supported by Vicki Shotbolt, the Chief Executive of Parent Zone, an organisation which campaigns to improve outcomes for children in a digital world. I was impressed by how much the students already knew about how to keep themselves safe online, from protecting passwords, checking whether sources of information look safe, and asking adults if something doesn’t look right. I’m grateful as well to the team from Google for presenting this important information in such an engaging way.
On Friday evening I was at the Quarterhouse theatre in Folkestone for the opening night of the Folkestone Book Festival, with the bestselling author Monica Ali. She was discussing her new book, Love Marriage, and the packed audience demonstrated the understandable interest in her work. I’d like to congratulate Creative Folkestone on another excellent programme for the festival. It was also good to see that Arts Council England have recently renewed the funding for Creative Folkestone as a national portfolio organisation, a mark of the quality and regard for their work. This means that they will receive over £1.2million of funding over the next three years, to support their work.