During the pandemic, many households and businesses faced significant pressure, particularly when businesses had to close due to restrictions or lockdowns. I was very eager to ensure businesses and households received the support they required and that they were able to have a pathway to recovery with help from the Government. Indeed, I spoke to businesses very regularly over the pandemic and represented their concerns and needs to ensure that the right support was forthcoming.
Yet today we are facing very large increases in the cost of living, particularly with regards to energy, food and fuel. I know inflation is also on many people’s minds. This, of course, is very concerning not only to the national economy but also to individual families who may be increasingly struggling to get by. I speak to families about these matters, and I have been making representations to the highest levels of Government. Although this is a worldwide phenomenon, Government support with living costs is being made available. On 26 May 2022, the Chancellor announced that universal support for energy bills will increase to a £400 discount, along with an Energy Price Guarantee (EPG), discounting the unit cost for gas and electric use. I welcomed the announcement at the Spring Budget 2023 that the EPG has been extended for 3 months. This will help to protect constituents from higher energy costs.
I know many in our constituency are off grid, therefore I was pleased to see the Government rolling out equivalent support for these households. Further to this, over 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 total support will amount to on average £3,300 per household.
The chancellor has committed to removing barriers to working parents, by increasing the amount of free childcare working families can access, through funding 30 free hours per week for parents who work with children aged between 9 months and 3 years. Encouraging parents to be empowered to get back to work sooner and helping them to progress their careers.
I am acutely aware of the pressures families continue to face as we progress through this year and I will keep representing my constituents concerns to Government departments.
Ensuring inward investment into the constituency is also a priority for me. Skipton has recently been awarded funding from the Government’s £95 million Future High Streets Fund.
Leading the efforts to bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire is another example of work I have done over the past ten years to boost our economy so that businesses can grow and create jobs across the constituency.
Agriculture is an important aspect not only to our local economy here but also our heritage and way of life. I very often speak to farmers and landowners about challenges and opportunities within the sector. I recently spoke to farmers and landowners near Bolton Abbey which also included a discussion with CLA representatives about the recent rises in input costs, such as for fertilisers, and the introduction of Environment Land Management Schemes (ELMs) under the Agricultural Act. Indeed, I have been paying very close attention to the transition away from direct payments and towards the new system with ELMs, including the current rollout of the Sustainable Farming Incentive.
I am also monitoring the development of the other two components of ELMs: Local Nature Recovery, which will pay farmers for actions that support local nature recovery and deliver local environmental priorities; and Landscape Recovery, which will support the delivery of landscape and ecosystem recovery through long-term, land use changes.
It is, of course, absolutely vital that the sought outcomes with regards to ELMs have the support and participation of farmers and landowners.
In 2010, I helped set up the Skipton and Ripon Enterprise Group which offers free mentoring to businesses in my constituency. I was delighted to assist their Ripon launch and the group now covers many towns and villages across the area including Skipton, Ripon, Settle, Sutton-in-Craven, Cross Hills, Ingleton, Bentham, Masham, Pateley Bridge, Grassington, Boroughbridge, and Northallerton. Some of the most successful business leaders in North Yorkshire offer free help and advice to other newer businesses on how to grow and expand.
I have been keeping up to date with the devolution deal for North Yorkshire and York, this is a great opportunity for our constituency, the deal has the potential to unlock £2.4bn of investment over 30 years. This will ensure that our constituency sees greater targeted investment, economic prosperity, and more opportunities at a local level, expecting to be formed by Autumn 2023.