I recently chaired a follow-up to my recent jobs summit, bringing together business representatives, Scottish Enterprise, the council, MPs, MSPs and councillors to work together to tackle the jobs crisis that our region faces.
We have a level of unemployment consistently above the national average, particularly among young people. During the event, there were a number of good points made and a lot of positive suggestions to be taken forward. In particular, I was delighted with the new council administration’s plans to help create 400 opportunities over the next three years within local small business. What we now need to see is national government give the same level of backing to supporting our local economy.
This month the UK parliament was dominated by the government’s autumn statement, when the Chancellor sets out his spending plans for the next few years – or in this case his spending cuts. This year’s autumn statement has done little to help the people of our region who face a real cost of living crisis.
There were two much vaunted measures. One was concerning energy bills. The government’s measure only saves the average family £50. The announcement on fuel duty also won’t compensate for the increase in price caused by hiking up the VAT and we all know that prices locally will continue to rise at a time when local wages are falling.
I was delighted to win a 2013 Health Challenge Award for walking the most in parliament. The Health Challenge was organised by the charity Silver Star, a charity which seeks to raise awareness of diabetes through advocacy and delivering free diabetes testing and lifestyle advice to the general public. It issued a number of us MPs with a pedometer that measured the amount of steps taken on a chosen day from the launch until World Diabetes Day on November 14. It turned out I had walked 22,000 steps, 1000 more than anyone else.
I was presented with the award by the civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson, whom I was honoured to meet. I hope I can break my own walking record next year.
OPPOSING THE PAY RISE
I am opposed to the proposed increase to MPs’ salaries. Although the rise won’t cost any more because it will be paid for by cuts in, for example, MPs’ pensions, with so many hard-pressed individuals and families really struggling with the cost of living, it would be wrong to have such a pay hike.
In 2010, it was decided that Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority should take control of MPs’ salaries and pensions and I supported this because I thought it was ridiculous MPs got to set their own pay. But just because it is independent, doesn’t mean it is right and in this case proposing a big pay rise is simply wrong. I strongly feel that all these proposals should be abandoned. I just hope that common sense will prevail in this matter.
Over the festive period, my office will be closed but my regular advice surgeries will start again in January. I continue to hold my regular advice surgeries in community centres in Castle Douglas, Dalbeattie and Kirkcudbright, and Newton Stewart library, as well as my constituency offices in Dumfries and Stranraer. Log on to russellbrownmp.com for details or call 01387 247902 for an appointment.