A million more children in poverty by 2022

A million more children in poverty by 2022. The legacy of this Tory Government, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and make no mistake, families in the Highlands are feeling it.

Over half of those in poverty live in working households. Parents should not be going to work day in, day out only to be unable to feed their children or heat their home.

Electricity, fuel and rent cost increases, an upward spiral of prices in shops, perhaps the worst period of wage stagnation in generations, the thrust downwards into poverty is also turbocharged by a systematic ideological attack on the welfare state.

There’s no better example than the horrendous roll out of Universal Credit – the Tories new ‘one payment’ social security system. It’s seen thousands more families plunged into poverty here in the Highlands, especially in my constituency, the chosen pilot area for the rollout. Families, the disabled, here have felt the punishing effects much earlier than those living in other parts of the UK.

Imagine, years of just making ends meet with a bit of help from child tax credits, or rent allowance, to then have the meagre assistance that has kept your head above water suddenly disappear – because you’ve been switched to “Universal Credit”.

A system so complex that even staff from the department of work and pensions and Job Centre Plus can’t understand it. Worse still, they often aren’t allowed to speak to each other because the new system doesn’t allow it. Payments are withdrawn without warning and people face a minimum 6 week wait, often months, for replacement funds and weeks of rent arrears by default. They simply can’t pay.

The Scottish Government will use its limited new powers (around 15%) to ensure dignity and respect for those it can help, however, this can’t be enough to stop the downward spiral families’ face now. The U.K. Government must halt the rollout of Universal Credit – then redesign it to work to alleviate, not increase poverty.

Poverty does not exist in isolation, it is invasive to our communities. If there is less money in the pockets of families here in the Highlands then there is less money to be spent in our shops and with our local businesses and it’s pretty hard to contribute to your local economy if every day is spent trying to find ways simply to get by.

 

Our Man in Westminster – August

Scotland’s reputation as a world leader in renewables was bolstered by last week’s news that the sector has already generated enough electricity this year to supply in excess of Scotland’s demand for six days. Our renewables sector is a fantastic success story and I am delighted to see it grow from strength to strength, with the Highlands and Islands well and truly leading the way.

Already more than half of all gross electricity consumption in Scotland comes from renewables. As well as helping to tackle climate change, the sector continues to attract investment – creating desirable skilled jobs in the Highlands & Islands and across Scotland.

Indeed, renewables has long become a vital part of our Highland economy and if it is to stay that way then the sector must be front and centre of Government energy policy. To date, the Scottish Governments commitment to the sector has been unfaltering; regrettably, the same cannot be said for successive UK Governments.

Despite the UK’s renewable sector supporting over 10,000 jobs and attracting more than a billion pounds of investment, a catalogue of cuts to support and policy changes have hampered the sector. 

Indeed, even when good news comes, it more often than not too little – and much too late.

This is true of last week’s announcement that new rules will make it easier for consumers to generate and store their own power using solar panels and batteries. Whilst the news that it will be easier for some consumers to sell energy back into the National Grid is very welcome, it does nothing to abate the years of UK Government inaction that has led to an energy market that is not fit for purpose.

For years Governments have avoided tackling an energy market that is leaving thousands of families facing fuel poverty. Energy policy must confront the stark inequity in a market that serves big energy companies more than consumers.

Still, across the UK there are 14 regional markets with different levels of network charges meaning that electricity distribution charges for the north of Scotland are 84% higher than the charges for London and the standard unit price is 2p a kw/hr more than in other parts of the UK. Here in the Highlands we still pay higher electricity charges than anywhere else in the UK – this despite producing much of the electricity right here on our doorsteps.

People should not be penalised because of where they live or because they don’t have the money to invest in technology. It is time that we saw real action to cut costs for households squeezed by rising prices and stretched incomes and this will remain one of my key campaigns when I return to Westminster in September.

Meanwhile, here in the constituency I have a jam-packed tour of surgeries and door-to-door visits arranged over the summer and I hope to catch up with as many of you as possible. You can find details of surgeries on my website at www.drewhendrymp.scot. I will also be out and about visiting some of our fantastic local community groups and businesses. So please do get in touch if there is an initiative or project you would like me to visit. I will always do my best to make it along.

Before I finish, I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to Stephanie Inglis, who announced her retirement from competitive Judo last week. I know readers will agree with me that Stephanie’s courage and determination in sport and in life, has made her a true inspiration to us all, and particularly to our young people. I am sure whatever her next adventure is, she will take it on with the same enthusiasm and spirit as she always has and I wish her all the very best.

 

Region deal must deliver free WiFi in our towns

I welcome the announcement that the City Centre Wi-Fi is to be extended to other parts of the City over the summer – this is a fantastic project, worthy of our support.

That said City Region Deal funding must support business development in our towns, as well as in the City and there can be no better way of achieving this, than investing in our growing tourism sector. Therefore I have written to the Highland Council to ask that the City Centre Wi-Fi project now be extended to Nairn and Aviemore as a matter of priority.

The contribution both towns make to our tourism economy cannot be underestimated. Nairn fast becoming a must-do golf tourism destination, with Aviemore already world renowned for its winter sports offering.  Both these local economies would benefit greatly from this digital investment now.

In the future, I would also like to see this project extend further to our other Highland tourist hotspots like Loch Ness and Fort Augustus. Whilst I appreciated the geography presents some challenges, these can be overcome and our main rural centres should not be ruled out from the project.

 

Details of Highland Council announcement here

Oath of Affirmation

All MP’s are obliged, by law, to either swear allegiance or can choose to take an oath of affirmation instead.

As always, it is a privilege and honour to serve the people of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey as your MP.

DREW HENDRY STATEMENT ON THE GENERAL ELECTION

Following the Prime Ministers announcement that she will seek approval from Parliament to hold a General Election on 8 June 2017, Drew Hendry MP said:

Calling this election is clear signal that it’s the narrow interests of the Tory party Theresa May is concerned with – there can be no doubt that she is attempting to force through a hard Brexit and increasingly right wing policies on Scotland.

We just have to look to the shambolic rollout of Universal Credit to see the devastating effects Tory polices are having on families across our constituency and I’m sure voters here will want to send a strong message that they reject this Tory power grab and all that it stands for.

I will be offering myself to the Party for selection, to continue the job of standing up for the people of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey.

It’s time for Scotland’s voice to be heard, louder than ever.

 

How I Can Help

 

 

My job is to represent the people of my constituency; Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey. To find out if you are within the boundaries of my constituency you can enter your post code on this website.

I can offer advice and assistance on matters for which the UK Parliament is responsible such as the NHS, pensions, benefits, UK-wide tax and national insurance, immigration issues, energy, defence and data protection.

The Scottish Parliament deals with matters that have been devolved by the Westminster Parliament. Your MSP - Member of the Scottish Parliament - can help you if you have concerns about matters such as health services, education, justice and transport.

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Post Offices: Rural Areas

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what analysis his Department has conducted of the future capacity of the Post Office, to meet its commitment, that 95 per cent of the total rural population is within three miles of a post office outlet.

The Government has committed to secure the future of 3,000 rural post offices in its manifesto and recognises the importance of post offices to communities across the UK, particularly to its more remote customers. That is why Government has invested significantly in modernisation and transformation of that network, helping to ensure its long-term sustainability. The network of branches is at its most stable in decades, and nearly 99% of the UK rural population lives within three miles of a post office.

Universal Credits: Late Payments

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many regular universal payments were not paid on time in (a) January and (b) February 2017.

The information requested is currently not available.

As outlined in the strategy for releasing official statistics on Universal Credit, officials are currently assessing the data and will only release information once the necessary quality assurance work has taken place. These statistics will be published in accordance with the relevant protocols in the Code of Practice for official statistics

Universal Credits

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many people are in receipt of (a) live service universal credits and (b) full service universal credits.

The number of people on Universal Credit as of 12 January 2017 was 450,000.