As Secretary of State for Work and Pensions I have taken the decision, in consultation with the Chancellor, to fully uprate the state pension by inflation. This means that the state pension will rise in line with September’s inflation rate (10.1%) for the 2023-24 tax year. It delivers the biggest ever cash increase in the state pension – a boost of £870 a year. I also uprated benefits in line with inflation to support those on the lowest incomes who have been impacted most by the rising cost of living.
These decisions, along with many other tax and spending policies, were announced by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement on Thursday. The Chancellor was completely honest about the difficulties we face and that we will all pay more tax (tax as a share of GDP will increase again), but this will put the nation’s finances back on a sound footing and enable us to spend more on education, health and social care and a range of other areas where further spending support is needed. This will support local schools, cut NHS waiting lists, improve ambulance response times, while overall still halve the amount the government is borrowing (otherwise known as the deficit.)
The Chancellor also announced that the National Living Wage will increase from £9.50 per hour to £10.42. This means full-time workers here in Central Devon on the National Living Wage will see their annual salary rise by nearly £1,800.
Locally, I recently caught up with Nigel Ward, Chair of Ashburton Chamber of Trade. We met earlier this year to discuss how the chamber is supporting local businesses and some of the challenges of operating a business within Dartmoor National Park. This time our focus was on rising costs and concerns that people are reigning in their expenditure. Our message to everyone is to shop locally, as much as you are able to, especially in the run up to Christmas. Our Central Devon constituency has a wonderful variety of independent shops and before looking online or travelling elsewhere please check out the locally produced items for sale on our own doorstep.
This ‘shop local’ message also applies to our smaller villages, where village shops – the last remaining amenity for many communities in Central Devon – need our support. I recently visited Ilsington to support a call for volunteers to join the Village Hall and Shop Committee because several committee members are standing down after many years of service and the shop can only stay open if more volunteers come forward. It is vital we retain our village shops – they are the hub of their communities and it is better for our environment if we can walk or cycle to our nearest shop rather than jumping in our car. Anyone interested in joining the committee can ring 01364 661788 or email email@example.com.