Thursday 24 March 2022
This week in the House of Commons, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak set out in the Spring Statement his plan to support the recovery of the economy, following the COVID pandemic. Whilst the economy is expected to grow 3.8% this year, and be bigger than it was before the arrival of the coronavirus, many people are facing increasing pressure on their household budgets because of rising prices. This inflation, currently at rates not seen for thirty years, has occurred as a result of increased spending following the pandemic, rising energy prices, and the impact of the war in Ukraine on oil, gas and wheat prices.
The Government’s new Tax Plan will strengthen public finances whilst helping working families with the cost of living. We have cut fuel duty by 5p per litre – the first such reduction in two decades – and raised the threshold at which people start paying National Insurance to £12,570 – a saving worth over £330 annually to individuals who pay that tax. Further to this, the Chancellor has planned a cut to the basic rate of Income Tax, reducing it to 19p from 2024, eliminated VAT on energy saving materials such as solar panels, and doubled the Household Support Fund to £1 billion so that local councils can use their local knowledge to support the most vulnerable.
Last week we also had the terrible news about P&O Ferries' decision to fire 800 staff on the spot. It goes without saying that such action is appalling. No company should act in this manner, least of all towards extremely dedicated and skilled employees who staff a vital corridor through which much of the nation’s goods flow. The decision is also contemptuous of the people of Kent who may be affected by additional road traffic if there are reduced ferry services across the channel – even with DFDS and Eurotunnel operating normally. The Transport Secretary is right to take action to make the company accountable for their callous decision and to challenge them on the legal basis for what they have done.
Last Friday I was delighted to join the staff and students of the Turner Free School (TFS) in Folkestone for the official opening of its new buildings. During my visit it was evident that pupils cherished their state-of-the-art facilities, and the school’s visionary leadership makes the future of TFS a very bright one indeed. Later that day I also met with the Headteacher of Mundella Primary School, Mr Westmorland, to discuss the impact of the pandemic on children’s education. I was particularly interested to discover how local schools have enjoyed being able to take the initiative and adapt so that best practice can be shared more widely and in real time.
Last week I also caught up with the team at Bigjigs Toys to understand more about their critical role in the amazing community effort to gather donations for Ukraine. Now on their eighth lorry of donations, Kent Help for Ukraine have successfully delivered humanitarian aid into Ukraine itself, rather than to neighbouring countries. This ensures that donations from Folkestone and surrounding areas are helping those most in need, as soon as possible. If you would like to make a donation to their impressive operation, please visit their Facebook page ‘Kent Help for Ukraine’ for more details.