Welcome to this month’s newsletter, which includes a special note on today’s Queen’s Speech at the opening of this session of Parliament and the support the Government is introducing to help with the rising cost of living. There’s also local news on progress with the regeneration of the former Heanor Grammar School, a new training academy in Alfreton and a summary of the recent local election results.
Queen’s Speech summary:
Today’s Queen’s Speech at the opening of Parliament set out 38 new bills focused on helping to ease the cost of living, growing the economy, cutting crime and supporting communities, clearing the backlogs from Covid and making the most of the freedoms offered as a result of Brexit.
We are growing the economy to improve living standards by:
• Providing £22 billion of support to help families to tackle the global cost of living increase, easing costs for households.
• Supporting people into high-skilled and well-paid jobs through our multi-billion pound Plan For Jobs, giving thousands of people the security of a job. We have a strong labour market helped by our multi-billion pound Plan For Jobs – with a boosted National Living Wage of £9.50 per hour, an extra £1,000 a year for an average full-time worker, focussing on ensuring work pays.
• Levelling up and regenerating our towns and cities through our landmark Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, shifting power to local leaders. Our Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will deliver planning reforms, regenerate towns and cities and shift power and accountability to local leaders giving communities a louder voice which will empower communities across the UK.
• Reforming our higher education system through our Higher Education Bill, raising education standards and increasing fairness within the system. Our Higher Education Bill reforms the higher education system to raise standards and introduce the lifelong loan entitlement – helping every student fulfil their potential wherever they live.
• Introducing our Energy Security Bill, delivering a more secure and homegrown energy system that is more affordable and cleaner, cutting costs for families. Our Energy Security Bill will deliver a cleaner, more secure and affordable homegrown energy system that will create tens of thousands of jobs whilst cutting household bills for families and achieving energy sovereignty.
• Modernising our business rates system through our Non-Domestic Rating Bill, increasing fairness for business owners. Our Non-Domestic Rating Bill modernises the business rates system with more frequent revaluations based on more accurate data, increasing fairness for business owners on the amount of business rates they pay.
• Improving tenants’ rights through our Social Housing Regulation Bill, ensuring better quality and safer homes.
• Introducing our Social Security Bill, allowing more people nearing the end of their life to get fast-tracked accessed to key disability benefits.
• Enabling the sale of Channel 4 through our Media Bill, strengthening the UK’s system of public service broadcasting. Our Media Bill will enable the sale of Channel 4, allowing the channel to embark on a new chapter of its journey and strengthening the UK’s public service broadcasting sector by increasing competitiveness.
• Putting Great British Railways on a statutory footing through our Transport Bill, making our transport system more reliable and efficient for passengers.
We are using our Brexit freedoms to grow our economy, ease cost of living pressures and support British business by:
• Seizing our Brexit freedoms through our Brexit Freedoms Bill, putting us in control of our own laws which best deliver for the UK.
• Strengthening our school’s system through our Schools Bill, raising standards for students, reforming funding and encouraging attendance. Our Schools Bill will level up opportunity by delivering a stronger and more highly performing school system that benefits every child, regardless of where they live.
• Introducing our Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill, implementing our Free Trade Agreements as we strike out as Global Britain. Our Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill will enable the implementation of our Free Trade Agreements with Australia and New Zealand as we strike out as Global Britain and take control of our own trade agreements free from EU restrictions.
We are making streets safer and cutting crime by:
• Recruiting 20,000 new police officers, helping to keep our streets safe. We have already recruited 13,576 new and an extra £540 million will be invested by 2024-25 to complete this recruitment.
• Enshrining the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act into law, keeping dangerous offenders behind bars for longer. Our PCSC Act introduces whole life orders for child killers, life sentences for drivers who kill while intoxicated, and ends the automatic early release of dangerous violent and sexual offenders.
• Bringing forward a Draft Victims Bill, strengthening rights for victims by placing the new Victims’ Code on a statutory footing. The drafted Victims Bill will set out to restore victims’ confidence that their voices will be properly heard and that perpetrators will be brought to justice.
• Strengthening our approach to modern slavery through our Modern Slavery Bill, protecting human trafficking victims. Our Modern Slavery Bill will strengthen protection and support for human trafficking victims and increases transparency in supply chains – stamping out modern slavery in our society.
• Carrying our Online Safety Bill over from the previous session to improve safety online, making the UK the safest place in the world to be online. Our Online Safety Bill creates a new regulatory framework that improves user safety online while safeguarding freedom of expression – making the UK the safest place in the world to be online.
We are funding our NHS to clear the Covid backlogs by:
• Following the unprecedented challenges placed on the NHS by Covid-19, we are investing £36 billion as we clear the backlogs.
• Recruiting an additional 27,000 nurses and investing £1.5 billion to create an additional 50 million GP appointments, tackling the backlogs. We are recruiting 27,000 new nurses and investing £1.5 billion to create 50 million more GP appointments, and we are delivering our manifesto commitment to build 40 new hospitals, alongside £2.3 billion to increase diagnostic activity with ambitions to roll out up to 160 community diagnostic centres over the next three years.
• Bringing forward our draft Mental Health Act Reform Bill, putting patients and the centre of mental health services.
Cost of living support:
Many residents have understandably raised the issue of the rising cost of living as something they are particularly concerned about.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we have been increasingly confronted by global inflationary pressures caused by the world economy starting up again. Much of this inflation is driven by rising energy costs as worldwide demand grows and supply is unable to keep up – as well as the effects of the war in Ukraine.
In response to these pressures, the Government has announced £22 billion of support for families.
This includes a £200 rebate on energy bills for all households, to be paid back over the next five years at £40 per year starting from April 2023. Secondly, the Government has announced a non-repayable £150 cash rebate for households in Council Tax bands A-D, which include the vast majority of homes in Amber Valley. And finally, the Government will provide local authorities with a discretionary fund of nearly £150 million to help low-income residents in houses outside of Council Tax bands A-D.
In the Spring Statement, the Chancellor also outlined further measures to help families cope with the cost of living by cutting fuel duty, lifting the National Insurance personal threshold, cutting the basic rate of income tax from 2024, scrapping VAT on energy saving materials and doubling the existing Household Support Fund to £1 billion.
I welcome these measures as I believe they strike an appropriate balance between remaining responsible with the nation’s finances as we recover from the pandemic and providing families with both immediate and longer-term help with the cost of living.
I know that many are concerned about this year’s pensions and benefits increase being based on inflation figures from September. As inflation figures are now substantially higher than they were in September I share your concern that the increase will not be sufficient, and that a more appropriate measure would be to use the most recent inflation rate from December. Back in February, I spoke in the House of Commons to raise my concerns and outline my position on this issue. While the uplift has remained, I am very glad the Government has confirmed that the pensions triple lock will return next year as planned; so that pensions will rise far more substantially in 2023.
I will continue to support and push for measures to help residents cope with pressures on household budgets.
Amber Valley Borough Council local elections – 5th May 2022:
Last week, on Thursday 5th May, a third of the seats on Amber Valley Borough Council were up for election. Within the Amber Valley constituency, voters went to the polls in Alfreton, Somercotes, Swanwick, Ripley, Ironville and Riddings, Codnor and Waingroves, Heanor East, Heanor West, Heanor and Loscoe, Langley Mill & Aldercar, Shipley Park, Horsley & Horsley Woodhouse and Kilburn, Denby & Holbrook.
Progress on regeneration of former Heanor Grammar School site – purchase completed!
It was recently confirmed that Amber Valley Borough Council have taken ownership of the former Heanor Grammar School building. This is excellent news for Heanor as for too long this building has sat empty at the heart of the town. Despite the building’s potential to elevate the local community, it has become an eyesore.
I have been calling for the building to be repurposed for years, so I was delighted to learn that the Council now plans to restore the building into a new ‘Heanor Hub’. The regenerated site will include a mixture of business space and community facilities for local residents, as well as potentially some leisure activities. The plans also aim to provide new parking and improve links with the Market Place and town centre. This is all being done through the Borough Council’s Future High Streets project, which combines £8.6 million of Government funding, as part of an overall £17.8 million town centre regeneration programme.
This project represents a fantastic opportunity to reinvigorate Heanor town centre after a particularly tough time during the pandemic. Local residents will be able to have their say on the draft plans of the former Heanor Grammar School through upcoming planned consultations and I will keep you updated in future newsletters.
Investing in local bus services:
Bus services form the backbone of our local transport network and I know that for many residents local buses are vital for getting around. However, bus services have been severely impacted by the pandemic and we also need to make it easier and more accessible to encourage more people to use local bus services.
So, as part of a new Bus Service Improvement Programme, the Government recently announced the award of £47 million of funding over the next 3 years to Derbyshire County Council to maintain and improve our local bus services. The investment is intended to promote cheaper and easier ticketing and invest in bus services by improving information for passengers, investing in bus stops and shelters and making journeys more reliable through road network and traffic improvements.
This is welcome news for Amber Valley and the whole of Derbyshire and I will continue to push for local areas and services to benefit from this investment.
Visit to Alfreton Qualitrain Engineering:
Education and opportunities for young people in Amber Valley are subjects that are often raised when I speak to local residents. Specifically, the need for more vocational training and employment focused qualifications. It is for this reason that I was so pleased to open the new Qualitrain Engineering Academy in Alfreton, which is specifically designed to offer these opportunities.
The academy is set to offer hands-on apprenticeships to the next generation of engineering and manufacturing professionals. Offering apprenticeships in the form of Level 2 and 3 Improvement Standards in such courses as Engineering Technician, General Welder, Metal Fabricator, and Rail Engineering Technician.
It is clear to me that this is a great asset to add to our local community, and exactly the type of employment focused education we all want to see offered locally. I look forward to seeing the academy’s progress in the coming months.
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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Get in Touch!
As always, you can contact me by hitting the ‘reply’ button on this email, or you can ring my office on 01773 744341.
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Promoted by Nigel Mills MP, of Unicorn House, Wellington Street, Ripley, Derbyshire, DE5 3EH.