Welcome to my November email newsletter. The focus is on yesterday’s Autumn Statement delivered by the Chancellor, with details on what this means for you, but there are also updates on local campaigns and on the ongoing issue of the Channel Crossings.
Yesterday, the Chancellor delivered the Government’s highly anticipated Autumn Statement. In which he detailed how the Government intends to restore economic stability and tackle inflation.
Like many countries around the world, the UK is facing profound economic challenges. Supply disruption caused by the world’s economies emerging from lockdown has been compounded by Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and deliberate interference with Europe’s energy supply to create massive increases in the cost of energy. This has led to high inflation and high interest rates across many of the world’s major economies, and the UK is no different.
I welcome the proposals in the Autumn Statement. To achieve long-term, sustainable growth we need to grip inflation, balance the books, and get debt falling as a share of GDP. The plan presented by the Chancellor yesterday takes the tough decisions to face up to this situation without passing the buck onto future generations. What’s more, it protects the hard-working majority by enacting no headline tax increases, and protects the most vulnerable by maintaining the pensions triple lock and raising benefits in line with inflation – something I have personally been campaigning for. All while protecting and maintaining public spending for the next two years at the levels set out in 2021.
The plan involves a roughly equal split between tax rises and spending cuts, with the greatest burden falling on those who can afford it most. Specifically, the plan:
Increases taxpayer funding for our NHS and schools by an extra £11 billion over the next two years.
– The Government will provide £4 billion in additional funding to schools and £7.7 billion in additional funding to the NHS and social care sector over the next two years. Prioritising the public services that matter most.
– £2–3 billion in additional funding for the NHS in each of the next two years so we can bring down ambulance waiting times, tackle the Covid backlog, and improve access to GPs. Also providing £2.8 billion next year and £4.7 billion the year after for adult social care, which aims to double the number of people leaving hospitals on time and into care by 2024, addressing unmet needs and boosting low pay in the sector.
– £4 billion in additional funding for schools over the next two years. We are increasing the schools budget by £2 billion this year and £2 billion next year to help schools with rising costs as a result of inflation. Which is more than Labour has pledged to give schools.
Introduces no headline tax increases.
– The Autumn Statement raises £25 billion in additional taxes over the forecast period but there are no increases in the headline rates of tax. By targeting tax rises toward businesses, wealthier households, and the oil and gas industry, the Government has ensured that it can honour its manifesto commitment not to increase Income Tax, National Insurance, or VAT.
– Instead of raising rates, the Government is freezing personal tax thresholds for a further two years. There are also reforms to the Additional Rate threshold, so that a taxpayer who earns more than £150,000 will pay £1,200 more in tax per year.
– It is only fair that companies who have made genuine windfall profits as a result of the war in Ukraine make an additional contribution to pay for the support we have outlined. So from 2023, the Energy Profits Levy rate will rise from 25per cent to 35per cent and will continue until the end of March 2028. A 45per cent Levy will be applied to extraordinary returns made by electricity generators. In total these windfall taxes will raise £52 billion over six years. This is more ambitious than Labour’s proposal.
Protecting and maintaining public spending.
– For the next two years public spending will remain at the levels set out in 2021 and then increase by one per cent in real terms each year until 2027–28.
Supporting every household with their energy bills.
– The Energy Price Guarantee will continue to support everyone for another year. This winter, the price households pay for the energy they use will be capped, so that a typical household will pay £2,500. From April 2023, the price cap will rise so that a typical household will pay £3,000. The Energy Price Guarantee will then end in April 2024.
Supporting the most vulnerable through maintaining the pensions triple lock and raising benefits in line with inflation.
– I have been publicly campaigning for benefits and pensions to be increased in line with inflation for some time now, and so was very pleased to see the Chancellor yesterday confirm that this would be part of the Government’s plan.
– To protect the most vulnerable, benefits will now be increased in line with inflation for 2023–24. More than 10 million households in receipt of working-age and disability benefits will see an increase in their benefit payments.
– The pensions triple lock will also be protected. Because of the difficult but necessary decisions the Government has taken elsewhere, the triple lock for pensions will be protected in full. This means that in April, the State Pension will increase in line with inflation, which is the biggest cash increase in the State Pension ever.
Additional support for the most vulnerable.
– Over £12 billion of additional targeted support is assigned to help the most vulnerable households. The Government will continue providing this year’s cost of living payments and next year it will provide extra one-off payments of £900 for the 8 million households on means-tested benefits, £300 to pensioners, and £150 for disability benefit recipients. The Government is also providing £1 billion of extra funding by extending the Household Support Fund for another year.
The OBR has confirmed that these plans will restore the public finances to a sustainable position and help reduce inflation and unemployment. And I look forward to engaging with my ministerial colleagues as these policies are rolled out.
This year for Remembrance Sunday on 13th November, I was honoured to lay wreaths in Ripley and Kilburn in memory of those who have served our county, and in honour of those who are still serving. There are a multitude of remembrance services held across our constituency every year, so it is unfortunately impossible for me to attend all of them. However, every year I try to rotate which services I attend. This year it was a memorial service at Ripley War Memorial in the morning and another in Kilburn in the afternoon.
This has been a particularly important period of remembrance as we mark 40 years since the end of the Falkland’s war, and we commemorate the 255 British personnel who lost their lives in defence of the islands. Their courage and sacrifice must never be forgotten. Thank you to everyone who organised or supported the remembrance services and parades across Amber Valley.
Alfreton Solar Farm Update:
On 21st October, I spoke at the public inquiry into plans from Kronos Solar to build a 50-megawatt solar farm between Alfreton and Oakerthorpe. Many of you will remember that Amber Valley Borough Council’s (AVBC) planning authorities rejected the proposal last December, stating that the project’s scale and impact on the landscape outweighed any environmental benefits the site would provide. However, Kronos Solar have since filed an appeal to overturn the decision of AVBC and get the site approved, resulting in this enquiry.
I have been opposing the project on behalf of local residents and businesses throughout the process, a great many of whom have contacted me about the proposals. I very much support the expansion of our clean energy network, and in the right place a solar farm would be an asset. However, there are good reasons why this site was refused planning permission. We all want renewable energy expansion but not at any cost.
To begin with, much of the land is north facing, which means the site would need to be overly large. The impact on the amenity of local residents, the impact on the countryside area, and the impact on the various heritage assets is just too great. And that is before we consider Alfreton Park and Alfreton Park Community School, which looks after children with the very highest level of need, very close in the vicinity.
It is clear to me that this is a totally unsuitable site for this intensity of development. Frankly, I believe this proposal was not based on a thorough search for suitable land for a solar farm, instead, it looks to me to be based on a search for a suitable sub-station, with the proposal then trying to force some land to suit.
I will continue to keep residents updated on any developments. And at present, a decision is expected at some point in the next few months.
Pollution and our waterways:
I have recently welcomed the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) plans to raise the civil penalty for water companies who pollute our environment by one thousand times, from £250,000 up to £250 million. I am hopeful that increasing the penalties the Environment Agency can enforce without a lengthy and costly court process will enable swifter and stronger action to be taken against water companies that illegally pollute our environment.
Many residents have contacted me about pollution and the use of storm drains in our sewage system. There has also been a great deal of misinformation circulating on social media regarding the Government’s campaign to address these issues.
Last year, the Government introduced the Environment Act 2021 which was a bill designed to tackle this problem and reduce sewage pollution ignored by previous Governments. When the Environment Act was going through Parliament the Duke of Wellington, a hereditary peer, introduced an amendment that would legislate the complete elimination of storm drains and therefore of storm overflow sewage into our waterways. This of course sounds admirable, and indeed is something I support in principle. However, this amendment came without a plan for how it could be delivered and how such a vast project could be funded.
Initial assessments suggested elimination would cost between £150 – £650 billion. To put those figures in perspective, £150 billion was more than the entire schools, policing, and defence budgets put together. Therefore, the Government did not support the amendment, and I did not vote for it. In my view, the last thing people wanted was for their water bill to go through the roof.
Twitter mis-informers seized this opportunity and claimed we had all voted in favour of water companies dumping raw sewage into our rivers. Which was totally false, and ironically punished the Government for actually trying to do something about the problem ignored by previous Governments.
With this most recent announcement by DEFRA, I am glad to see the Government continuing the campaign to improve the quality of our waterways. To hold water companies to account, and ensure any polluter pays for the environmental harm they cause, the Environment Agency must take advantage of these new powers.
Illegal crossings over the Channel:
Many of you have contacted me about the number of small boats illegally crossing the English Channel in recent months. I appreciate the strength of feeling on this alarming issue and want to outline my position to you and explain some of the challenges we face in tackling this problem.
The number of illegal entries into the United Kingdom via small boats crossing the English Channel is too high. It endangers the lives of those making the journey, puts money into the pockets of ruthless and brutal people smuggling gangs, and puts undue pressure on our existing asylum system as well as our public services. I remain committed to an immigration policy that welcomes people to the UK through safe and legal routes, and an immigration policy that allows us to provide asylum to those in genuine need. However, it is clear many of those arriving in small boats are not here in genuine need of asylum, and as a result, the current situation cannot go on.
One reason for small boat crossings increasing in frequency is the success the Government has had in tackling other forms of illegal immigration. Such as increased checks and security for lorries and freight crossing the channel, effectively reducing the number of illegal entries into the UK through these means, and increasing the number of people turning to small boats as a way to enter the UK. The problem that now presents itself is how to police and secure hundreds of miles of coastline 24/7.
Earlier this year, Parliament passed the Nationality and Borders Act which overhauled our approach to asylum and illegal migration. The legislation includes fairness towards those who need our help, and in welcoming people through safe and legal routes, but firmness in tackling abuse of the system and expediting the removal of those who have no legitimate claim for protection. It is worth noting that Labour opposed this Act designed to toughen our immigration system.
Further to changing the law in this country, the Government has recently signed a joint UK-France arrangement on tackling small boat crossings in the Channel which includes a 40% increase in the number of UK-funded officers patrolling French beaches. The new agreement lays the foundations for deeper UK-French co-operation to tackle illegal migration. The arrangement means, for the first time, specialist UK officers will be able to observe French officials at work in control rooms and on the ground patrolling the coastline.
It is clear, however, that big challenges still lie ahead, and that the number of small boats currently crossing the channel is unacceptable. The Prime Minister speaking recently on GB News said that tackling illegal immigration was a huge priority for his Government, and that while the recent joint UK -France arrangement was a big step in the right direction there was more that needs to be done. I share the Prime Minister’s view, and will continue engaging with my ministerial and Parliamentary colleagues to make the case for further measures to reduce cross channel migration.
Street Watch – report it:
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.