I had the pleasure of attending the official opening of The Strawberry Thief in Tadpole Garden Village. I was delighted to join the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Sarah Trouton for the opening of the new Arkells pub in Tadpole Farm. Since I did the ground-breaking ceremony last year, it’s great to now see the vision for the pub realised. It will make a very welcome addition to North Swindon.
This week the Government announced further support with the cost of living - particularly for those qualifying for means-tested benefits or tax credits. The new Social Security (Additional Payments) Bill, building on the Chancellor’s previous announcements, provides further financial assistance to millions of households across the UK. This additional support comes in at £15 billion, building on the previous £22 billion already announced.
The Bill provides the Government with the power to make two, one-off, social security payments – firstly, a £326 payment from the 14th July and a second instalment of £324 by December, totalling £650 for over 8 million households. Secondly a £150 payment will be available for those on disability benefit, paid in one instalment in September to the 6 million households who qualify. For those on tax credits, payments will be made by HMRC slightly later to avoid duplication of payments.
Alongside this, the government has announced extra support for all pensioners in the UK. Over 8 million pensioner households will receive an additional £300 payment as a top-up to the annual Winter Fuel payment to help cover the rising cost of energy this winter.
The measures compliment the previously announced support from the Chancellor, meaning the vast majority of households will receive at least £550 of support (or £850 for pensioners), and, for almost all 8 million low-income households, the support will total at least £1200. This is an important Bill that will enable the Government to provide cost of living support to people up and down the country.
Finally, I was disappointed to see RMT decide to take strike action next week, crippling our railway system. Our railways are a proud part of our history, but they are struggling to keep pace with the needs of passengers post-pandemic – and are too often hamstrung by outdated work practices enforced by the trade unions. During the pandemic alone we delivered £16 billion of emergency funding to keep the railways running – the equivalent of £600 per household in the UK. This level of subsidy is unsustainable and shows why reform is needed now.
Unfortunately, instead of working with the Government to reform our railways and make them sustainable and fit for the future, the trade unions, backed by Labour politicians, are pressing ahead with their reckless strike action next week. These strikes will hit millions of families in the pocket, costing them more to get to work and causing significant delays – harming the economy and costing British businesses millions of pounds.
In addition, these strikes will disrupt vital services like the NHS and cause unnecessary distress for those sitting A Level and GCSE exams. The Government is standing up for rail users and are on the side of the travelling public. I urge the unions to come back to the negotiating table, negotiate in good faith and avert these strikes. Let’s make our railways sustainable and fit for the future.