Orpington 1st column: Delivering for Orpington
There's one issue on everyone's minds: the cost of living. We have faced a turbulent time as a nation, from a pandemic to an energy crisis, but we are not alone. Many people feel the squeeze on our household budgets and income - and many other countries face the same challenges as us.
There's no quick fix to the economic shock of a once-in-a-century pandemic or an energy crisis fuelled by the war in Ukraine. But there's a lot we can do to get our economy back on track to create better-paid work and lower inflation, so that your income goes further. In this column, I want to update you on what I am doing as your Member of Parliament to support families and businesses in Orpington.
First, I'm fighting the Mayor of London's plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) across Greater London from August this year. If the Mayor imposes this road tax on Orpington, it will cost you £12.50 a day to drive if you own an older car - and a £180 fine if you fail to pay.
The Mayor doesn't understand that places like Orpington rely on cars because we do not have the same public transport connections as central London. Nor do we have the same pollution problem. Transport for London's own analysis reveals that ULEZ expansion will have little to no impact on air quality in outer London.
Over 80 per cent of Orpington households own a car, which includes over 50 per cent of households earning as little as £10,000 a year. The Mayor's road tax could cost people up to £4,500 a year if they use their car every day to get to work, the shops, or visit family and friends.
Few can afford the Mayor's road tax. That's why I am doing all I can to stop it, including organising a letter signed by 28 Members of Parliament demanding that he cancels ULEZ expansion, discussing the issue with government ministers, and speaking out against the charge in Parliament and on the media.
Second, I've met with Orpington businesses to hear their views on the challenges facing local enterprises in our town centre. I want to help them thrive so they can create more, better-paid jobs and invest in our community. They raised several issues, which I will take back to Parliament.
Third, one issue businesses raised was policing in Orpington. I am delighted to report that the government is on track to recruit 20,000 additional police officers, taking police numbers to a record level in Greater London. Due to this recruitment drive, we now have more police on the beat in Orpington's town centre, with a Sergeant, five officers, and one police community support officer.
Finally, ahead of the upcoming budget, I met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to discuss pressures facing Orpington families and businesses and how we can grow the capital's economy. I welcome the laser focus he and the Prime Minister have brought to ensuring economic stability and driving down inflation. I made the point that we need to unleash businesses and make the UK more competitive to grow our economy, so we can lower taxes and invest in our public services.
Orpington is a brilliant place to live, work and do business, and I'm confident it will continue to thrive. I'm proud that the government protected people's livelihoods during the pandemic and is now shielding families and businesses from Vladimir Putin's energy warfare through the energy price guarantee.
There's a lot more to do. But as your MP, I am doing all I can to: stop the Mayor's ULEZ expansion from taking a sledgehammer to household budgets and businesses; support local enterprises and secure more police officers; and raise Orpington's concerns directly with senior government ministers to ensure your voice is heard in Westminster.
Article by Gareth Bacon MP first published by Orpington 1st.