Many families in Shropshire have some positive news this month, as the national living wage increases to £7.50 – a £500 pay rise for a full-time worker on the minimum wage – and the tax free personal allowance for all taxpayers rises for the seventh year in a row to £11,500. These two measures will particularly help the lowest paid, which is welcome.
Also this month Shropshire will start to benefit from the £12m of additional funding for social care from last month's Budget. Shropshire's acute hospital trust will be able to bid for some capital funding to help put in place improved triage streaming at A&Es to prepare for next winter. These measures will help alleviate acknowledged pressures in the system.
This month we will also start to make progress with Brexit, following the passage of the Brexit Bill through Parliament. The PM has been consistently clear – Brexit will happen and she is determined to make a success of it. There will be no attempt to stay in, re-join the EU, or rerun the national vote. It was the UK’s decision to Leave, and we will take this path together.
Away from national policy, the way in which the majority of services for people in the Ludlow Constituency are provided is through Shropshire Council. Everything from roads to adult social care, bin collections, and planning are determined from Shirehall.
Just as Whitehall has spent the last few years pushing responsibilities down to Shirehall, Shirehall is now looking to local communities to take on more responsibility for non-statutory services in their area.
So who we choose to represent us at local elections is very important. On 4th May, across the South Shropshire, voters will be asked to choose who they believe will effectively represent their area at Shropshire Council. I will be encouraging people to express their democratic right to ote, or to consider standing at either county level, or town and parish council level.
If you feel you could represent your community when important decisions which affect local area where you live are being taken, I would encourage you to consider applying to be a candidate. Nomination packs can be requested from the Electoral Services team via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 0345 678 9015. Nominations must be submitted by 4pm on Tuesday 4th April 2017.
But clearly, not all will have the time or energy to stand for elected roles. So using your vote to back your preferred candidate can make a difference. If you are intending to vote in these upcoming elections, it is important to ensure you are registered to vote ahead of the deadline of 13thApril 2017. This can be done online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. These are the first countywide local elections under the new system of Individual Voter Registration, which was introduced in 2014, so it is worth checking you are still registered, to avoid disappointment on polling day.
When more people feel able to stand for election, or use their vote, our democracy becomes more inclusive and representative. So whatever our political beliefs, we should encourage as much political participation in voting, whether by post or in the ballot box, as we can.