The last week in Parliament has been very busy with an incredible number of different issues to deal with.
Figures published recently showed an encouraging fall in unemployment both in Pendle and nationwide and record employment in the UK.
The figures confirmed that over a million new private sector jobs have been created over the past two years.
There was also a welcome fall in inflation.
We had welcome announcements on Colne’s multi-million pound new health centre, confirmation of a £60,000 Sport England grant for Belvedere and Calder Vale Sports Club in Reedley, Regional Growth Fund support for East Lancashire businesses and I secured a meeting with the new Rail Minister to discuss the Selrap campaign. However, when I am out and about speaking to people in church, the pub or door-to-door I know people are still finding times very tough.
One of the biggest concerns people have raised with me this month is rising energy costs and I agree it is one of the biggest challenges facing households. Local people are angry that four of the biggest energy companies have recently announced price rises from 6% up to 9% especially as we enter winter.
That is why I raised the issue in Parliament last week and am taking part in an initiative called Big Energy Saving Week.
Big Energy Saving Week, which ran from October 22nd, is about getting families across the UK to learn how they can make their homes warmer even while reducing their energy bills by making their property more energy efficient.
It is about making people aware of funds available like the Warm Home Discount, which is for those most in need. It is a four-year scheme that has been running since April 2011 to help low-income households with their energy costs. The scheme is valued at £1.1 billion and over two million households each year are supposed to benefit. If any readers would like more information, they can get in touch with my office (01282 614748) or check the Energy Department’s website - http://www.decc.gov.uk/
There is also £48m. available from the Warm Front scheme to be spent before January. Through this, help up to £3,500 is available to improve heating or insulation in homes.
The money can pay for things like loft, cavity wall or hot water tank insulation, draught-proofing, gas, electric or oil heating.
Because this help is targeted at the vulnerable and the low paid, there are qualifying criteria for the person applying and for the property. Again, this can be checked online or get in touch with me. At the moment a significant proportion of households in Pendle are eligible for support, but millions of pounds are available and go unclaimed.
That is why I want to see the proposals to put information about the lowest energy tariff on people’s energy bills to go further.
I asked the Energy Minister to improve the information about government-funded schemes like Warm Front on people’s bills.