LOOKING back, 2013 was another tough year. In the public sector, pay rises are well below inflation (including Members of Parliament, at least until 2015). In the private sector many have seen it fall. Yet the cost of the goods and services has been going up. Recovery has been slow coming, but it does seem that the years of austerity are beginning to pay off at last. The economy is growing again, the deficit has been cut by a third and, with the public finances stabilising, the Government is able to do more to help people. As a result, personal income tax allowances will go up to £10,000 in April, and petrol duty has been frozen.
As the economy recovers, businesses are increasingly optimistic. This is reflected in the national unemployment figures which continue to fall — and the local news is particularly good, since the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in the constituency has fallen by 17 per cent. If things look brighter at home, it is a different story elsewhere. The news from Syria is deeply depressing. Not only does the prospect of peace seem further away than ever, but the humanitarian disaster is worsening. In the Philippines, the clear-up after Typhoon Halyan goes on, and changing weather patterns suggest that such extreme weather is becoming more common. I have written recently about the generosity of the British people in giving to charity, but these causes are truly worthwhile.
On a more cheering note, this will be the last year that our troops will be on active service in Afghanistan and it will be good to have them back, although I am sad that Canterbury has lost the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Nevertheless our own TA unit, 3rd Battalion the Princess of Wales Royal regiment, is going strong. Forecasting what the year will bring is difficult – back in 2010 a Cambridge University professor predicted that in 2014 the world would be plunged into a terrible crisis. I hope he is wrong and hope instead that you have a happy and peaceful year.
MP for Canterbury and Whitstable
Herne Bay Times, January 2nd 2014