Parliament has now risen for the summer recess bringing to an end a tumultuous period. On the day we return in September we will learn who the new Prime Minister is – and what an in tray they will find when they take office with a war in Europe, the worst inflation problem in half a century, a cost of living crisis, the fear of energy shortages, a health service struggling with patient demands post-pandemic – and that’s to name just a few.
They say a week is a long time in politics but who could have forecast all this a year ago? Then we were celebrating the end of Covid restrictions and looking forward to everything going back to normal. We knew the Covid disruption around the world would take some time to work through but not to this extent. We were preparing to welcome the world to the COP26 summit with the main aim of ending the use of coal for power – a year on , and with the gas supply from Russia under threat, coal looks, sadly, to be back in demand across Europe.
It now looks like what was forecast to be a short spike in inflation will last into next year, with energy bills looking to be getting ever higher this winter. It’s inevitable that the Government will need to do more to soften this blow – and those from all the other price rises – even after the £37 billion of support already provided. We must however ensure we don’t prolong the inflation crisis. The £1,200 support already promised to millions of households equates to around a 6% pre-tax pay rise for households earning £30,000 – the median salary in Amber Valley. While we all want our salaries to keep pace with inflation and they generally should, if we want to get inflation down next year, we have to be very careful.
Even when the inflation issues start to recede, we shouldn’t go back to the old normal. For the last couple of decades we’ve got used to offshoring all our messy jobs, while enjoying cheap goods from China, cheap gas from Russia, and cheap food from anywhere we can get it. The pandemic and the breakdown of relations with Russia and China have shown we can’t afford to remain reliant on unfriendly powers for items essential for our economy and everyday living – we need to produce more of our own food and power, and we’re already seeing the return of jobs lost abroad.
In the middle of all these global issues, it’s good to be back in Amber Valley for the summer and a chance to get around the constituency. While the cost of living issues dominate, many people are concerned again about the Council’s draft local plan – some things at least never change. I would urge anyone in Amber Valley to make sure their comments are submitted to the Council by 2nd September. The plan is a vast improvement on the previous version with no loss of greenbelt land, but, as with all plans, some communities could be affected by new development and this needs to be got right.