Rutland MP Alicia Kearns discusses Afghan refugees, Merchant Navy Day and trade deals in latest column
We have a huge veteran community here in Rutland, so none of us are surprised by the generosity that our community has shown to the Afghan refugees who should arrive in Rutland in the coming weeks, writes Rutland's MP Alicia Kearns. My office is overflowing with kind donations – and I’m confident that we can give our new community members the best possible start in their new homes. If there are any specific requirements they have once we know who is coming to live in Rutland I will update you all.
It was a pleasure to be at Oakham Castle with the Lord Lieutenant and the leader of the council, among others, for the raising of the Red Ensign on Merchant Navy Day. I have to say, the contribution of the Merchant Navy to this country isn’t celebrated enough, and it’s a great thing that we honoured them, and acknowledged their role in Britain’s history, security, and prosperity, as well as our future. This follows an announcement of a further £5m for services to support veterans from the Prime Minister which I welcome this week.
Exporting is the buzzword of the moment here in Westminster – we’ve signed more than 60 trade deals with countries around the world already, with many more to come! Businesses in Rutland already engage in exporting – the wonderful Woolroom springs to mind – but I want to make sure that every business that wants to export knows what support is there to support you. I’m running a free, virtual event with the Department for International Trade on September 30. It promises to be a great opportunity to meet with the officials who can help you on your exporting journey. You can sign at my website.
Farming is part of the lifeblood of Rutland – and seeing the combine harvesters out in the fields just reminds us that our farmers are truly feeding our nation. Our farmers face much change, but there are many opportunities and my goal is to minimise uncertainty for you all. I want to make sure that I am representing farmers in Parliament as effectively as possible. If farmers could spare five minutes to fill out my survey before September 30, I would be incredibly grateful.
Nationally, this week the Government stepped forward to create a long term solution for funding health and social care. This is a challenge of many decades, there are no easy solutions, and after the pandemic we face enormous financial challenges whilst the pressures of social care become more significant and acute.
A UK-wide 1.25 per cent Health and Social Care Levy will be introduced from April 2022, paid by individuals and businesses. The levy will create on average an additional £12bn annually for health and social care. I lobbied the Prime Minister in the House of Commons to ensure that Rutland County Council receives specific support as we are historically underfunded already. The £12bn will help us tackle the backlog in the NHS, invest the largest amount of any Government ever to upskill the social care workforce, fund a nurses 3% pay rise and implement the Dilnot solution to cap social care costs. Too many of us are very worried about finding the compassionate care we want our loved ones to receive, and I think it’s right that further borrowing and debt isn’t how we go about funding social care.
I wish you all a happy - if slightly too hot - fortnight in our wonderful county.