As we approach autumn, I am clear that the next Prime Minister will urgently need to address the cost-of-living pressures caused by rising prices.
Although my primary concern is for Cheltenham, I recognise that Russia’s squeeze on food and gas supplies is impacting the whole world.
Indeed, in Cheltenham’s twin-town of Göttingen in Germany, a July estimate for households put the average energy bill at £2,759 compared to a current British price cap of £1,971. Meanwhile, in the US the average rate on a 30-year mortgage has soared to nearly six per cent, higher than in the UK.
As part of a £15bn package, all households in Cheltenham will receive £400 in staged payments starting in October. A £150 council tax discount is available for those living in Band A-D properties, plus a further £650 grant for those on Universal Credit and other benefits.
But given recent predictions for the price cap, I think it is likely that further action will be needed. So I welcome Rishi Sunak’s proposal to get rid of VAT on energy bills if he becomes PM. He’s right too not to rule out further grant payments.
Meanwhile, last Friday I was delighted to be invited by the Cheltenham Guardians to visit their revamped Nightcare Hub at 1 Royal Crescent. Donated by the Royal Air Forces Association and resourced by the Cheltenham BID, it is now open every Saturday night between 10pm and 4am.
It will deliver an impressive new capability to help safeguard women and girls in the night-time environment, building on the brilliant work of the Guardians since 2016. The hub will be a place of refuge, safety and warmth for those who might find themselves alone and vulnerable.
The Guardians’ work will be further supported by nearly £200,000 from the Government’s Safer Streets Fund recently awarded through our local Police and Crime Commissioner, Chris Nelson.
Together we can make Cheltenham an even better place to live and to visit.
[Column first published in the Glos Echo]