James Fredrickson met with Liz Truss, the Treasury Secretary, on Wednesday to press the investment priorities of Oxford West and Abingdon constituency ahead of the government’s 2019 Spending Review.
Amongst the issues raised was the need to provide further help to local High Streets, the case for infrastructure investment ahead of any major housebuilding and the unfreezing of benefits for those most in need.
James used the example of Abingdon’s free 2-hour carparking as a successful initiative to support local shops and businesses and called for a fairer tax system to enable retailers to compete with online services and for measures to tackle late payments.
He heard more about the Government’s latest initiative to help local High Streets - The Future High Streets Fund which seeks to help high streets and town centres evolve and keep up with changing consumer behaviour so that they can remain at the heart of local communities and will be exploring if this is an initiative that can help Abingdon with the relevant local authorities.
On the topic of home ownership, James raised the level of housebuilding that is being considered for the whole of Oxfordshire and pressed for the need of significant investment into local and regional infrastructure ahead of any major developments.
“Too often infrastructure is delivered late or towards the latter end of a housebuilding project. Developers and central government need to be aware that often communities are still addressing the extra pressures that previous developments have placed on the local school, doctors’ surgery, local hospital, roads etc and that trying to deliver new infrastructure at the same time as building houses causes significant inconvenience to the neighbouring communities.”
James also pressed for the raising of benefits in the 2019 review.
“A number of vital benefits to help those most in need in our community have been frozen since 2016. With the pressures of inflation, the increase in the number of people using foodbanks and the improvement in the Government’s finances, I believe it is time to lift the freeze and increase the help we are able to give to those most in need in our society.
I refuse to be a politician that calls for more money for services without engaging in a discussion about how that is financed, but as national debt as a % of GDP is now falling, it is high time we turned our attention to removing the benefit freeze”