This week as Phillip Hammond unveiled his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I was pleased to hear the news that the economy remains on track and the Government has ensured that despite troubling times it has managed to keep manifesto pledges such as raising the tax-free personal allowance; lifting many families on low incomes out of tax altogether and reducing the tax burden for others meaning people are able to keep more of what they work hard to earn.
In what will come as a huge relief to those seeking to rent homes, the Government has pledged to ban the charging of up-front fees by letting agencies as soon as possible. These unregulated fees sometimes make it extremely difficult for people to rent properties and I look forward to the positive effect this will have for my constituents. Many people renting homes in the constituency have raised this with me as an issue and I had passed their concerns on to the Chancellor. I was also pleased to hear the Government has frozen fuel duty for the seventh consecutive year, this will amount to a saving of £130 per year to the average car driver and around £350 per year for van drivers.
On Wednesday evening I met a constituent at the Cardiac Risk for the Young Reception in Parliament. Her son died from an undiagnosed heart condition at just 30 years old and she is now helping raise awareness of these conditions for other families.
On Saturday, I am looking forward to joining Romsey residents in the Town Centre for the annual Christmas lights switch on. Many will have seen that preparations have been well under way for weeks and now comes the all-important switch on, signalling the Christmas countdown for the town. I was very pleased to pick up the Christmas in Romsey brochure a fortnight ago and thank all those who make the festive events possible.
November 18th 2016
Romsey has a long and proud history of remembering fallen heroes and this year was no exception. From the short service on Friday to the parade on Sunday, it was heart-warming to see so many people of different backgrounds come together to participate in this solemn act of remembrance. I know there were a number of services in Parishes across the constituency and war memorials are once again adorned with poppies and messages of thanks to those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could continue our way of life.
On Friday I enjoyed an evening of history lessons. Firstly, it was very interesting to visit Romsey Town Hall to see an exhibition on Romsey in the Dark Ages. Over the past few years, local historians have been undertaking an investigation into the history of the Lower Test Valley concentrating on the time between the Romans and the Normans. It was fascinating to see how much work had been put into the project and I was delighted to see the outcome. Immediately afterward I joined a packed audience at the Plaza for a production of Nell Gwynn, the famous mistress of King Charles II. The performance was, as always, absolutely brilliant and my congratulations go to all those who took part.
This week saw an extremely busy schedule of parliamentary and ministerial meetings – including a wonderful event by Guide Dogs for the Blind in which MPs were able to meet a number of puppies in training along with people who will soon be relying on them for assistance.
On Friday evening I am looking forward to a return to the Plaza for the Romsey Male Voice Choir concert, which will undoubtedly be brilliant as ever.
November 11th 2016
In what has been an enormous surprise to most, Donald Trump will be the 45th US President. Many people are understandably concerned about what this will mean for us here in the UK and global stability, however I would urge caution among those who are worried. The UK and US have maintained good relations throughout our long history and I very much hope that President-Elect Trump will reject much of the worrying rhetoric we have heard over the last 19 months.
This week as Parliament rises for recess around Armistice Day, it gives us time to reflect on the servicemen who gave their lives so that we could live in a free society. I will be joining the Remembrance Sunday parade in Romsey on Sunday which will no doubt be as packed as usual with people of all ages coming out to pay their respects.
I have used this mini recess to visit two schools in my constituency. Firstly, I was very pleased to visit the Vermont School in Southampton which is a special educational needs school catering to children aged 7 – 11 with emotional, behavioural and social difficulties. It was great to meet the staff and pupils and see the work they are doing at this great school. I will also be meeting with Mr Kutty, the new Headteacher at Cantell School in Bassett on Friday, which holds the accolade of being the most improved school in Southampton. I look forward to hearing his plans for the school and how he will build on the fantastic improvements that have been made over the last few years.
Finally, it was an absolutely pleasure to visit the fabulous Braishfield Pantry at the Village Hall last Saturday where I held my surgery. It was so encouraging to see a community project which has taken off so well and it is clear the village is now being very well served with a wide selection of local produce on offer.