North West Norfolk MP James Wild discusses Thornham Village Hall and Boris Johnson
On Friday night, I enjoyed giving a talk on my role as MP for North West Norfolk at Thornham Village Hall as part of the “Winter Warmers” supper talks series.
In preparing for the event, I checked with my team how many emails I have received on individual constituent casework, policy matters, and emails on specific campaigns in the last two years – the answer is 28,000 so more than 1,000 a month.
Looking at recent cases, some of the issues I helped people with included getting a pension re-calculated, benefits, housing matters, and hospital treatment.
As well as questions on crime, planning, and levelling up, one of the issues I spoke about was the economy and helping more people into work.
New figures show the number of employees rose by 184,000 in December and there are 1,865 people in North West Norfolk claiming unemployment-related benefits – a rate of 3.4% of working age people compared to 4.4% across the UK.
Through work coaches and other schemes we must focus on matching people to current vacancies.
I also highlighted the closing of a tax loophole for second homeowners which I campaigned for.
Property owners can avoid paying council tax and benefit from small business rate relief by claiming their second property is a holiday let without being required to let it out.
From next April, properties will have to be rented out for 70 days to benefit. This will mean genuine businesses benefit from business rates but second homeowners pay their fair share towards local services.
Of course, there were also questions on events in Downing Street. Throughout Covid people across North West Norfolk have been asked to make huge sacrifices.
Everyone who has done so is rightly angry at the behaviour that has been reported – and I share that anger and I have relayed the views that constituents are expressing.
The Prime Minister has apologised and recognised that he should have acted differently. As I said in a Times Radio interview at the weekend, I wish that he had done that earlier.
The report setting out the facts around events is expected soon and the Prime Minister will then come to Parliament to respond to its findings.
Over the Christmas break, I enjoyed the new ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ programme on the BBC.
It is a good example of the high-quality programming the BBC is world renowned for. Then oddly enough on Monday my TV licence renewal demand landed in my inbox as the government announced it would be frozen at £159 until 2024.
After that it will grow in line with inflation for the following four years. That means the BBC will get £23 billion over the period of the settlement.
This is a fair settlement which gives the BBC certainty over its licence fee funding while supporting families in the face of rising living costs.
But as well as the income from the licence fee the BBC generates commercial returns but this represents just 6% of its income. By generating more income and driving further efficiencies it can reduce the burden on licence fee payers while delivering high quality content.