We’re well into January now, and I hope this finds you all well and looking forward to 2023. I’m writing this on so-called Blue Monday, but I was reading a post from the Samaritans explaining that this was a myth – there’s no evidence to suggest it’s any worse than any other Monday and it was made up by a travel company in 2005 to help sell holidays. They would like to rename it “Brew Monday” – a day where we reach out to connect with family, friends, colleagues and loved ones, and make time for a cuppa and a catch-up. I think that’s a great idea. There’s no reason why any Monday can’t be a “Brew Monday”, and there are ideas and resources for holding your own here. Make it a regular thing and help put a smile on someone’s face.
Cost of living
The company and emotional support of others is an important part of keeping healthy and happy, but we still have to pay the bills, and I know things will be difficult for a lot of us this year. That’s why I do a lot of work in Parliament on trying to make sure work pays, and that the poorest don’t end up paying more for products and services than everyone else. For example today I signed a letter to the government asking for a ban on forcing people onto gas and electric prepay meters and fixing the unfairness in pricing which sees meter users pay a higher rate than everybody else.
When I was invited to serve on the Treasury Select Committee I understood holding ministers and institutions to account over financial matters was important, but I wasn’t sure how applicable it would be to my constituency work. It turns out it really is. Recently I have been able to ask the Chancellor about the “tax gap”, which is the difference between how much tax should be collected and how much actually is – a staggering £32 billion for 2022! That money is desperately needed and I was able to quiz him on why the Treasury wasn’t spending more on fraud and evasion (which claws back £18 for every £1 spent). Next week we will be questioning the Governor of the Bank of England on interest rates, which affect everyone with a mortgage and variable rate debt repayments.
To help in the constituency I am putting on a Cost of Living Facebook Live event on Thursday 26 January. Panellists will include Martin Coppack, from Fair by Design, with whom I have been working closely on ‘financial inclusion’ (explainer on this important work here), and for specialist advice on the effect of the cost of living increases on people with disabilities, there will be a representative from the charity SENSE.
Finally on this subject, a reminder that I have put together a booklet with everything my office has learnt about dealing with debt, along with information on how to make sure you are getting any grants or benefits you are entitled to, which is available here. If you can’t find the help you need in it, don’t hesitate to contact me directly and please share this information.
Know your employment rights
I will also be hosting a FaceBook Live event on employment rights on Thursday 9 February. It will hopefully provide you with everything you need to know on what you can expect from your employer and what your rights are. Panellists will include an employments rights solicitor, a representative from Disability Rights UK, as well as Trade Union reps.
Details of this and the Cost of Living Event will be on my Facebook page.
Until the fantastic achievement of the Lionesses in winning the Euros at Wembley last year, the most successful women’s England captain in terms of trophies was Hull’s own Carol Thomas, who lead the team over 50 times and lifted the unofficial world cup, Mundialito, in1985. This was before the team was under the auspices of the FA, so they tend not to include these achievements when talking about the current England women’s team, which is a shame. Nevertheless, she was inducted into to the English Football Hall of Fame last year, and I had the pleasure of meeting her to celebrate. The stories she shared about her experiences in the football world back in the 70s and 80s were amazing.
I’m delighted to say she was given the Freedom of the City of Hull by the Lord Mayor in a ceremony in the Guildhall last Thursday, and quite right too!
Birds, butterflies and a new wildflower meadow
As you might know, I am the RSPB Parliamentary Species Champion for the Brimstone Butterfly. I was asked to accept the role because of my work supporting the Butterfly City project. I am delighted to say that the constituency now has its first Butterfly City wildflower meadow on Park Street. The Land Registry have agreed to manage a large area of grass on their premises as a wildflower meadow. Previously, this was cut regularly but will now be managed for wild flowers and grasses. They have put up signs explaining the work and I’m looking forward to its first year without regular mowing which will allow flowers to bloom and pollinating insects to feed. The longer grass will also be home to many more invertebrates, which in turn provide food for birds and small mammals like shrews and voles.
National threat to wildlife
The RSPB, along with several other wildlife charities, contacted me recently over their extreme concerns for nature protection because of the proposed government Bill to scrap all EU legislation by the end of the year, regardless of whether it has been replaced. This covers at least 1,100 pieces of environmental law and 1,000s more pieces of environmental “minor regulation”. A lot of this existed before we joined the EU and has been adopted into it, and much more has been enhanced by the UK government itself – as EU protections are only a minimum. These cover things like rare habitats and species protections, clean water, pesticide use and there is simply not enough time to review and properly replace them all. Wildlife charities are saying this would be a huge backward step from all the work done protecting our nature and environment, and I agree.
Big Garden Garden Birdwatch
The RSPB’s Big Garden Garden Birdwatch is taking place this month, 27 – 29 January and you don’t actually need a garden to take part. If you are interested, the details are here
As always, please feel free to share this letter with anyone you think might be interested. I will be doing as much as I can to offer assistance and advice over the coming months and represent the constituency in Parliament; please do not hesitate to contact me if you think I can help.
All the best for 2023