Letter from Claire Coutinho MP – June 2022

Last week, Ofgem reported what they expect the energy price cap to move to in the autumn. Year-on-year, we expect the average household to face an energy bill increase of £1,200. That’s why the chancellor announced a new package of support in the House of Commons, targeted at the lowest-income households.

We will be raising revenues through a new tax on energy companies whilst increasing the tax breaks they can get for investing – taxing extraordinary profits resulting from the war in Ukraine whilst crucially incentivising investment into the UK. 

Every household on means-tested benefits will receive £1,200 in total this year, which is the expected average energy bill increase. This will include a new one off £650 direct payment. We are also making the previous £200 energy rebate into a £400 grant. Pensioners will receive £850 through a new additional winter fuel payment worth £300, an energy bills grant worth £400, and the £150 council tax grant. And if you are not on benefits but live in a band A-D household, you will receive £550 through an energy bills grant worth £400 and the £150 council tax grant.

This is in addition to previous changes we have made to make work pay, including raising the minimum wage, increasing the Local Household Allowance, and also decreasing the rate at which benefits fall away when you go into work. To give you an idea all in all, a single mother of two who works full-time on the National Living Wage will receive £2,500 of extra support this year. 

This is a significant amount of help to support people with the acute global inflation pressures that we are seeing. No government can fix all of the problems we are facing, but I hope this will make a meaningful difference to those people who need the most support.

Maths and numeracy

Helping to make this country and its people more prosperous is in fact one of the reasons that drove me to stand as an MP in the first place. As the world becomes more competitive, and as we not only face the cost of living crisis but also more age-related spending in the decades ahead, we will need to use all of our collective talents to innovate and prosper. That’s why I was delighted to participate in National Numeracy Day last month, something I helped to set up earlier in my career.

One of the best ways for people to earn more is to study maths. Don’t believe me? Ask Bill Gates or even Snoop Dogg. Good numeracy and maths are going to be ever more critical in a changing world where we have to assess the costs of different product choices, root out truth from disinformation, and thrive in a work landscape increasingly dominated by tech and artificial intelligence.

The charity National Numeracy estimates that poor numeracy can cost you up to £1,600 a year in lost earnings. So for this year’s National Numeracy Day, I was delighted to visit De Stafford School in Caterham. I spoke to students about the importance of numeracy and maths and about how no matter whether their pathway was academic or into a trade, these skills can make them and our country more prosperous.

The importance of community

Another reason I came into politics was my belief that the best decisions for communities are usually made by communities themselves, not made for them from afar. So it was a delight to speak at the Community Wealth Fund’s parliamentary reception, where I argued that we will only unleash the ambition and energy communities have for their areas if we recognise them as the legitimate decision-makers that they are.

Ambitious, energetic community leaders are not something we’re short of in East Surrey. A couple of weeks ago, I also visited Tony and team at the Horley Food Club. They gather food that would otherwise get thrown away and then redistribute it to people who might be struggling, solving two problems with one stone. One of their food club members told us about the pride she took in protecting the planet by taking food that would otherwise have been put in landfill. An excellent scheme which allows a good deed on both sides.

I also visited Dianne and Liz at Churches for Food Horley, who have done tremendous work to help those in need. We know that energy and food bills are taking their toll on local families, so it was great to see this thoughtful and dedicated community support in action.

Celebrating the jubilee 

Looking to the week ahead, I am really looking forward to celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Her Majesty has served our country gracefully for 70 years. I’m sure you will agree that we can learn a lot from her example and should strive to work as hard, faithfully and courageously as she has for all these years. She is truly an inspiration to us all and I suspect, one day, we will look back and reflect on how lucky we were to live through the second Elizabethan era.

Claire Coutinho MP for East Surrey
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