I am delighted to be writing my first column of 2024. I hope that readers had a wonderful festive period and wish you all a happy new year.
As we look back on last year, it is fair to say it was a challenging one. The country was continuing to recover from the impact of both the pandemic and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in a bleak economic landscape. In January 2023, the Prime Minister set out his five pledges and what would shape the Government’s priorities for the year ahead. While a significant challenge, a key priority was to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, while ensuring that support remained available for those who needed it.
Thanks to the action taken by the Government over the course of the year, we saw inflation fall from its peak of 10.7 per cent in November 2022 to 3.9 per cent in November 2023. With the country back on stable footing, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement allowed for a greater focus on the long-term decisions to strengthen the economy, such as reducing debt and cutting tax.
I am optimistic that in 2024 economic conditions will continue to improve, interest rates will reduce further, and employment rates will remain buoyant. Furthermore, I know that many residents were concerned about fuel and energy prices – we have seen these fall significantly and I hope that this reduction will be maintained over the course of the year.
Following my time leading children’s services within local government, something that is hugely important to me is improving opportunities for young people. This begins in the classroom and the need to ensure that every child receives high-quality education; something that should never be taken for granted. I therefore very much welcome the excellent progress on school standards, thanks to the work put in by the Government, which I hope will continue into 2024.
Lastly, I will continue to work hard on behalf of residents and to offer my support to those who need it. Regular surgeries will continue, and I encourage you to get in touch with my office via the usual channels if you would like to make an appointment.
Also featured in the January edition of My Local News is a Q&A, which I have also shared below.
What have you learned from 2023 that you're bringing into 2024?
There was much to take away and learn from in 2023. Something that stood out for me was a renewed focus on the importance of our local councils, Hillingdon and Harrow, and how they are continuing to improve. By receiving better and more positive feedback from residents means that they will be supported by central government to improve.
What was your biggest highlight of the past year?
We previously found ourselves in a period where confidence in the Government was damaged. However, I welcome the journey towards rebuilding that trust, which started at the end of 2022, and that we saw continue in 2023. There was a renewed sense of change, optimism and purpose among Parliamentary colleagues, as the foundations were laid for significant progress on key objectives that we saw manifest over the course of the year.
What are you most excited for this year? What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge?
I think that excitement and challenge may come as one, as both are likely to relate to preparing for a General Election. While a challenge, it does also present the opportunity for a wider debate about the country’s future and to renew our mandate from voters.
Nature lovers, of which there are many in my constituency, will be watching the election with interest as Labour have promised to build on the Green Belt, which is so important locally. With over 1.4million homes already granted planning permission but not started, I believe the Government is right to focus on getting developers building before allowing our green spaces to be built upon.
Come the end of this year, what will you hope to have achieved?
On a collective level, I hope that we achieve further progress on the economy as this underpins the living standards and wellbeing of constituents, as well as everyone across the country. Just before Christmas, we legislated for cuts to national insurance, which will now benefit 27million working people. Further reductions were signalled in the Autumn Statement taking effect this year, combined with a toughening of the benefits regime to support more people to find work. All of these will help people to feel better off this year, and I will be looking forward to seeing that achieved by the end of 2024.
First published: My Local News, January 2024