We should always remember that we have a voice and role in standing up for our residents on the national level, as well as the excellent work we do at council level and in our communities.
The letter below, written by Portsmouth Council Leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson CBE (pictured) to the Chancellor ahead of today’s Budget, is an example of how we can both lobby for our area and set out what we believe to be the key issues for our communities. You may want to take this as an example and adapt a similar letter for future use.
Over the last year many families and businesses in Portsmouth have faced real hardship because of the pandemic.
The NHS, key workers in many different jobs, and thousands of volunteers have worked hard to keep the city running, and the most vulnerable protected.
I hope that the Government can follow suit and produce a Budget for Portsmouth that will help local firms to survive and give real assistance to those who have suffered the most from the pandemic.
We know that the impact of the pandemic has been far from equal and those on the lowest incomes have been the people who have been hit hardest. They have also been the most likely to lose their jobs or part of their wages. Many others have had job security and have even been able to save because they have spent less on the non-essentials. I hope that the budget supports the people on lower incomes, and also gives support to local firms that have been hit the hardest.
I would ask you to look at four measures in your Budget to give support to residents in Portsmouth.
1. I completely support your plan to give grants to businesses in the retail and hospitality sector. But our High Streets are facing extinction. They need long term and permanent help. The abolition of Business rates for retail (excluding large multiple grocery stores – which are very profitable) would give certainty to retails which remain, and new ones that will come forward. Our High Streets must be saved.
2. Those on the lowest incomes have been hit the hardest in the pandemic. The £20 uplift in Universal Credit was the right thing to do. Now is not the time to remove this.
3. Our planet faces a bleak future unless there is action to tackle climate change. Here in Portsmouth the City Council is offering to work with over 18,000 households which could benefit from solar panels on their roofs. He have invested more in our 25,000 council solar panels than any other council. The Government needs to follow suit and invest more, not less, in insulating homes and moving them to be carbon neutral through the Green Homes Grant Scheme.
4. Finally, along with schools, childminders and nurseries have remained open throughout the pandemic. In the last lockdown, Early Years was the only education sector that was fully open, which allowed parents to go to work. But lower numbers have put additional pressure on these businesses with some going under. This is an opportunity to invest in the historically underfunded Early Years sector as we prepare for children to enter school as part of the recovery curriculum.
There are many other things that could feature in your budget, but I hope you take on board these suggestions and make sure this really is a Budget for Portsmouth.