As readers might expect, much of my casework in-tray is currently all about the rising costs of living. Far from being an isolated issue for us here in the UK, this is a global phenomenon arising largely because of Vladimir Putin's heinous hostility to Ukraine. That has sent energy prices soaring and is now rubbing the salt of inflation into an open financial wound, first created by the effects of the pandemic.
I have met with local businesses, our local authorities, community organisations, charities and pensioners to identify the biggest threats posed by the crisis and ascertain how we can target support to make the biggest positive impact, as quickly as possible.
Notably there is a group of people seeking support for the first time, particularly pensioners, who have previously managed their way through financial downturns without help. Understanding their eligibility for various schemes is a theme and many are also rather bewildered by the fragmented nature of the help, advice and information available to them in different sectors.
That motivated me to set up a cost-of-living help hub on my website. https://www.helengrant.org/helen-grant-mps-cost-living-help-hub
My hub aims to signpost people to specific points of contact, all co-located in one central guide; from welfare benefits, like universal credit, to where to get help with gas and electricity bills, the hub also includes information on help with council tax, housing costs, how to access food banks and Government support schemes as well as how to contact voluntary organisations working across the area. And it includes details of certain specialist financial advisory organisations who have the regulatory authority to provide individual financial or legal advice.
Maidstone Citizens Advice Bureau features strongly as a ‘go to’ source of help in my hub and I was pleased to meet their Chief Executive Paul Hardy recently to discuss local challenges and the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement .
Paul was positive about the Government’s decision to increase benefits in line with inflation, and their continued commitment to the triple lock on pensions. He was also happy with the introduction of additional cost of living payments next year: £900 to households on means-tested benefits, £300 to pensioner households and £150 for individuals on disability benefit. But he raised concerns about a new group of vulnerable people; working couples who are on enough money to be ineligible for benefits but who are greatly affected by rising costs. He fears these are the people slipping under the radar.
My own concerns are also extended to the owners of small and medium sized businesses who will suffer a huge increase in the main corporation tax rate, from 19% to up to 25%, from 1 April 2023. The earliest this will actually become payable is January 2025, but cutting 6% out of the bottom line in one fell swoop will surely impact business investment decisions right now, and could threaten job security and employment opportunities for many.
My team and I are helping constituents every day with their individual challenges and we will continue to do so throughout these exceptionally difficult times. Do please contact me if you think I can be of assistance.