Thank you to the organisers of the Ilminster Great Big Green Week who did a great job in arranging a number of events to raise awareness of environmental issues. It is so important to remember that we can all make a difference not just in long term goals but in improving our local environment too, and it was good to see this measured and constructive local initiative. At the time of writing, it has been exciting to hear that China has announced it will stop building coal plants abroad which is a positive development in global efforts that we need to encourage.
On the local level I enjoyed planting a golden willow at the Ilminster Recreation Ground kindly donated by the excellent Ilminster Rotary Club which I hope will have a long and happy life. I know that lots of the event organisers and volunteers did similar things and more and indeed I got to sample the superb results of the bake-off competition at Sweet Surprise to highlight Fairtrade, so well done and thanks to them all. It was also a pleasure to meet a charming Ilminster Rotarian of a hundred years of age who recently survived COVID having been vaccinated.
Highways England briefed South West MPs this week and I am pleased to say the delays to the Stonehenge section on the A303 will not affect works on the rest of the route. I know there are some concerns about the A358 proposals and have made that clear ahead of the consultation period and I have a further meeting with the team shortly.
The Government is having to make some tough decisions as we come out of the pandemic. I voted against the rise in National Insurance as I don’t think that is the right way to fund and reach a sustainable solution for adult social care but there is a need to be careful with the public finances after the last 18 months.
This week the Triple Lock for pensions was adjusted which was a reasonable thing to do. Because of the pandemic the figure for average earnings, which is one of the 3 key measures, has gone up by nearly 9% but only because of the anomaly that it had fallen so far last year during lockdown. While it would be nice to give such a bonus the predicted 2.5% rise on the other measures is fairer on everyone else.
Similarly, we are coming to the end of the Universal Credit uplift that was a response to the pandemic and related lockdowns and the cost of making that permanent would be very high. My focus on employment opportunities in Somerset becomes even more important, encouraging the development of skills and giving everyone the chance to reach their potential.
Finally, may I wish the very best of luck to our county cricket team as they take on Warwickshire. It’s great to see them doing so well (at the time of writing, fingers crossed).
As always if I can be of help please do call my office on 01935314321 or email marcus.fysh.mp@parliament .uk