Letter from the Minister about Cost of Living Support and the extension to the Household Support Fund

I have received the following letter from the Minister about Cost of Living Support and the extension to the Household Support Fund which is available to Local Authorities.

Dear Colleague,


The Government understands the pressures people are facing with the cost of living and is taking further action to provide vital support for those in need in the coming months. The Prime Minister has committed to cut the headline rate of inflation in half by the end of the

We are also making further cost of living payments in 2023/24, including up to £900 delivered in three payments to those on eligible means-tested benefits, a £150 payment for those on eligible disability benefits, and £300 on top of Winter Fuel Payments for pensioner households. Benefits and pensions will also increase by 10.1% in April, with the minimum wage also seeing its largest ever cash rise hitting £10.42 an hour.

The Energy Price Guarantee is also continuing to protect customers from increases in energy costs and, from April 2023 until the end of March 2024, meaning a typical household bill will be around £3,000 per year in Great Britain, while equivalent support will continue to be provided in Northern Ireland.

The Government is also providing an additional £1 billion of funding, including Barnett impact, to enable the extension of the Household Support Fund in England in the next financial year. This is on top of what we have already provided since October 2021, bringing total funding to £2.5 billion.

In England, the Household Support Fund, backed by £842 million, will run from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024, enabling Local Authorities to help households with the cost of essentials. The Devolved
Administrations will receive consequential funding as usual through the Barnett formula to spend at their discretion.

This year-long extension allows Local Authorities in England to continue to provide this support. Local Authorities have the flexibility and discretion to design their own local schemes within the parameters of this guidance and grant determination that we have set out for the fund. Local Authorities have the local knowledge and ties to best determine how this support should be provided to those in need in their local communities.

Local Authorities have been asked in the scheme guidance to support households in the most need, and in particular those who may not be eligible for the other support government has recently made available. Local Authorities are expected to help eligible households with the cost of energy and water bills, food and other related essentials. Authorities can deliver the funding in a number of ways that they deem most suitable, such as by paying into bank accounts, or via the provision of goods.

Today, the guidance and grant determination for this forthcoming extension have been published, and can be found here.

This extension, in addition to the previously mentioned initiatives, will work to help those in need. We would be grateful if you could direct constituents in need of support to their Local Authority or Devolved Administrations who will be able to help them access the local support available to them in the coming months.

I am placing a copy of this letter in the House Library.

Mims Davies MP

Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression


Wokingham Council will receive £1,051,147
West Berkshire will receive £1,389,666

My visit to Nationwide Building Society, Wokingham

To the right is Morgan Milner, the Branch Manager and to the left is Lisa Harley, one of the branch’s Member Representatives.

On Friday I visited the Nationwide Building Society branch in Wokingham as part of the site’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. I met the team and toured the branch, learning about the services that the Nationwide offers to their members.

I raised the importance of retaining face to face services and learned how the Nationwide is supporting those who are not comfortable with online banking. I heard how the Nationwide is supporting their mortgage holders and helping renters to enter the housing market. They are also offering support to Nationwide members with money worries through their freephone cost-of-living hotline.

I was very interested to learn about their Money Lessons programme which is targeted at students from Year 1 to Year 13 and works with schools to deliver sessions on a wide range of topics including savings, budgeting and staying safe online.

My Interview on GB News with Mark Dolan, 17.02.23

On Friday I did an interview with Mark Dolan on GB News in which I discussed the Northern Ireland Protocol, tackling illegal cross channel immigration and growing the economy – particularly on ways to assist small businesses and the self-employed.

You can find my interview below between 17:20 and 29:30 minutes in.

Visit to Shinfield Studios

On Friday 3rd February I was invited to see the building works in Shinfield close to the M4 for the new complex of studios. It is a large building site, with one studio complex completed and another nearing completion. In total it will be some 1 million square feet of studio space with several studios offering substantial interiors for filming. Each building is a large box structure with well insulated double walls to ensure silence inside when needed for recording, with good eaves height to allow sets and plenty of hanging lighting.

They have been attracted to our area by the talented workforce available in surrounding towns and villages, and by the good access from the motorway nearby. I wish them every success as they go about completing the buildings and finding the first users who want to come here to make their films. There was filming action in a completed studio on Friday which we did not disturb.

More NHS beds

My campaign for more beds in the NHS to expand capacity and help bring the waiting lists down has at last been successful. The government announced on Monday £1bn more to pay for 5000 additional beds in NHS England hospitals with staff to look after patients, a 5% increase in the present total.  I asked the Secretary of State if more of the additional £14bn also planned for the NHS could be used for further increases in capacity. With the population increasing and the elderly population increasing from greater longevity there is more demand. I will continue to press for more capacity as we need to get waiting lists and waiting times down more quickly.

My Interview with BBC Radio Berkshire’s Andrew Peach – Hospital Beds

I was pleased to hear that NHS England will pay for 5,000 more beds and 800 extra ambulances. I have been running a campaign to get more capacity into the NHS, pointing out we are short of beds and the staff to help patients. 6 million people read one of my tweets asking for more beds last December.

I discussed this with Andrew Peach of Radio Berkshire yesterday morning. You can find my interview at 1:15:40 on BBC Sounds attached in the link below:


My Speech on the NHS Long-term Strategy – Opposition Debate

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): No one can deny that the health service is under extreme pressure. No one can look at it and not realise that there has been a big surge in extra demand, that there are problems from the hangover of covid when a large waiting list for less urgent treatments built up, and that we are short of doctors and nurses, not because Ministers will not authorise their appointment but because there are vacancies to be filled. As one of those who has been urging for some time to see a published workforce plan, I welcome the decision of Ministers to insist on that, and the sooner we get it the better. However, I am quite sure that there are a whole series of workforce plans already in the many dozens and hundreds of working trusts and quangos that constitute the NHS. It is about aggregating and making sense of those plans.

Yes, indeed. From my hon. Friend’s own expertise, I am sure she is right. When people talk about productivity, they do not believe that hard-pressed staff have to work harder; they are saying there must be smarter working, making jobs more manageable or enabling them to concentrate on the things they are most skilled at, with more relief for the other necessary record keeping, which may indeed need slimming.


Dr Caroline Johnson (Con): We often talk about the shortage of doctors. We know we cannot create a doctor overnight. It takes a substantial amount of time to train them. The Chancellor, a former Health Secretary, invested in five new medical schools to increase the number of doctors in training. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Chancellor, with the Health Secretary, needs to invest more money in more medical schools and medical school places, but also look at how we increase the number of doctors by reducing the amount of bureaucracy and paperwork they have to fill in, so that they can spend more time doctoring and less time filling in forms?


Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): My hon. Friend is right that we could expand our training places further, but as we have heard there has been a big increase in educational provision and it takes seven years for it to flow through. I am glad we are getting to the point where we will see some benefits from that. We need more homegrown talent. Many people are attracted to the privileged career of being a doctor and the more we can allow to do that, the better. However, given the immediate urgency of needing more capacity, and therefore more doctors and nurses, the most obvious place is to look at all those who have already had the training and have left the profession or the NHS for one reason or another. Some may be in early retirement. That is probably not something my hon. Friend wants to change because she enjoys her new job, but there are many others who are not in a very important job like her who might be attracted back. I hope the Treasury will be engaged in the review, because I hear from doctors, as many do, that the quirk in the tax system at just over £100,000 where some of the better paid doctors are resting, producing a more penal 60% rate, is an impediment to extra working. I also hear about the pension problems that have been cited on both sides of the House. The Government need to take those issues more seriously if they wish to accelerate returns.

Ministers have very clearly set out that they want more NHS staff and have obtained much larger budgets in the last three years to help bring that about. They have also said very clearly that the public’s priority—and indeed the Opposition’s priority—is to get more treatments and get those waiting lists and waiting times down for those needing more urgent or emergency care. Those Ministers must translate that through the senior health service managers into ways of spending that extra money. If it needs a bit more extra money, there is always some extra available—every time we meet another additional sum is announced—but it has to be well spent. It has to be spent on motivating and recruiting the medical workforce.

I had better not, because we are very short of time for colleagues.

The money has to be well spent and I hope that senior managers, as they give us a published workforce plan, will share more of their thinking. It is not good at the moment that there is such a breakdown in relations with talented and important staff in the health service. There is a complex system of pay reviews, increments, promotions and gradings of activities. All those things have flexibility within them. I look to the senior managers

We need more supply because there is excess demand, for understandable reasons. Huge sums of money were tipped into the system to deal with covid. Not all of it was well spent, but that was understandable given the unknown nature of the beast at the beginning, and the obvious pressures in this place and elsewhere to get instant results with personal protective equipment, testing and so forth. That is now behind us, but unfortunately it disrupted normal hospital work and normal GP work and created backlogs.

I urge the Government to understand that part of the answer is having more bed spaces in hospitals, with the staff to back them up. I do not know why so many senior health executives never want to admit that. They always say that there are lots of bottlenecks and other issues. Yes, of course we need to move people on from hospital as soon as it is safe to do so, and of course we need more capacity in social care, but I say to Ministers that it would be great to have a bit more capacity in the main hospitals to give us extra flexibility and take some of the pressure off. Could not some of the extra £20 billion, £30 billion, £40 billion or £50 billion that has been found in recent years be spent on the combination of physical capacity and the staff to support it that we so need?

Energy Bills Discount Scheme

I have received the letter below from the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury in relation to continued energy bill support for businesses, charities and the public sector.

To: All MPs

10 January 2023

Dear Colleague,


I am writing to set out further details of the announcement I made today in relation to continued energy bill support for businesses, charities and the public sector.

Following a review of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme, I announced that the government would be launching a UK-wide Energy Bills Discount Scheme – a new energy support scheme that will provide all eligible UK businesses and other non-domestic energy users with a discount on high energy bills until 31 March 2024, following the end of the current scheme.

The new energy scheme will help businesses locked into contracts signed before recent substantial falls in the wholesale price manage their costs and provide others with reassurance against the risk of prices rising again.

This further support follows the government’s unprecedented package for non-domestic users through this winter through the current scheme, worth £18 billion per the figures certified by the OBR at the Autumn Statement.

At Autumn Statement, we were clear that such levels of support, unprecedented in its nature and scale, were time-limited and intended as a bridge to allow businesses to adapt.

Whilst wholesale energy prices are falling and have now gone back to levels just before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, we recognise the importance of avoiding a cliff-edge for businesses and want to provide reassurance against the risk of prices rising again. That is why we are launching the new Energy Bills Discount Scheme, which will give businesses the certainty they need to plan ahead.

The new scheme strikes a balance between supporting businesses over the next 12 months and limiting taxpayer’s exposure to volatile energy markets, with a cap set at £5.5 billion based on estimated volumes.

Through the scheme, from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024, eligible non-domestic customers who have a contract with a licensed energy supplier will see a unit discount of up to £6.97/MWh automatically applied to their gas bill and a unit discount of up to £19.61/MWh applied to their electricity bill. The relative discount will be applied if wholesale prices are above a price threshold of £302/MWh for electricity and £107/MWh for gas.

A substantially higher level of support will be provided to businesses in sectors identified as being the most energy and trade intensive – predominately manufacturing industries. A long-standing category associated with higher energy usage, these firms are often less able to pass through cost to their customers due to international competition. Businesses in scope will receive a gas and electricity bill discount based on a price threshold, which will be capped by a maximum unit discount of £40.0/MWh for gas and £89.1/MWh for electricity. This discount will only apply to 70% of energy volumes and will apply above a price threshold of £185/MWh for electricity and £99/MWh for gas.

Beyond the energy schemes, the government has also taken a number of further steps to support businesses (all UK-wide except as noted):

  • Increasing the Employment Allowance from £4,000 to £5,000 in April 2022, meaning 40% of businesses with Employer National Insurance Contribution (NICs) liabilities were unaffected by recent changes to Employer NICs.
  • Protecting 70% of actively trading companies with the Small Profits Rate, which keeps the Corporation Tax rate at 19% for businesses with profits of £50k or less from 2023.
  • Introducing £13.6 billion business rates package worth over the next 5 years to support the revaluation (England-only).
  • Extending the alcohol duty rates freeze for six-months, providing certainty to pubs and breweries.
  • Extending the Recovery Loan Scheme until June 2024, providing businesses with up to £2 million of government guaranteed finance (up to £1 million for businesses in scope of the Northern Ireland Protocol).

This government is committed to supporting UK business and the voluntary sector, and through this package we aim to give organisations the certainty they need to plan through next winter. We will continue to monitor the situation and engage with representatives across the private and voluntary sectors.

Yours sincerely,

James Cartlidge MP


Wokingham Choral carols

I greatly enjoyed the Wokingham Choral Society’s carols on Saturday 17th.

They sung well, and encouraged audience participation in some of the well known ones.

I would like to thank all who organised it, and to wish them a very happy Christmas with their families and friends.

Proposed changes to National Planning Policy

I have received the letter below from the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Constituents interested can respond to the consultation. I will be having further exchanges with Ministers stressing the need to control migration to reduce pressures for more housing, and the need for local communities to protect green spaces and avoid over stretching local infrastructure and services.


Dear colleague,

Proposed changes to National Planning Policy

In my Written Ministerial Statement of 6 December I said that the Government would publish a National Planning Policy consultation before Christmas. This consultation has been published today on gov.uk.

The consultation sets out specific changes that we propose to immediately make to the National Planning Policy Framework to swiftly deliver the Government’s commitments to building enough of the right homes in the right places with the right infrastructure, ensuring the environment is protected and giving local people a greater say on where and where not to place new development.

We know that the best way to secure more high-quality homes in the right places is through the adoption of local plans. At present fewer than half of local authorities have up-to-date plans (adopted in the past five years). Our proposed reforms create clear incentives for more local authorities to adopt plans.

In line with my Written Ministerial Statement on onshore wind, also of 6 December, we are consulting on a more localist approach to consenting onshore development, which provides local authorities more flexibility to respond to the views of their local communities. This will support local decision making and commitments made in the British Energy Security Strategy.

The consultation includes changes to:
1. make clear how housing figures should be derived and applied so that communities can respond to local circumstances;
2. address issues in the operation of the housing delivery and land supply tests;
3. tackle problems of slow build out;
4. encourage local planning authorities to support the role of community-led groups in delivering affordable housing on exception sites;
5. set clearer expectations around planning for older peoples’ housing;
6. promote more beautiful homes, including through gentle density;
7. make sure that food security considerations are factored into planning decisions that affect farm land;
8. and enable new methods for demonstrating local support for onshore wind development.

The document also calls for views on a wider range of proposals, particularly focused on making sure the planning system capitalises on opportunities to support the natural environment, respond to climate change and deliver on levelling up of economic opportunity, and signals areas that we expect to consider in the context of a wider review of the Framework to follow Royal Assent of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

This consultation is the first stage of a broader programme of reform. The government will publish another consultation on the detail of wider changes to the NPPF next year, reflecting responses to this consultation and across other areas of planning policy.
Finally, this document also sets out the envisaged role for National Development Management Policies (NDMPs). These are intended to save plan-makers from having to repeat nationally important policies in their own plans, so that plans can be quicker to produce and focus on locally relevant policies. This document calls for views on how we implement NDMPs and the Government will consult on the detail next year ahead of finalising the position.

The consultation will be open until 2nd March 2023 and I encourage you and your constituents to respond before that date. The Government will respond to this consultation in Spring 2023, publishing the Framework revisions as part of this, so that policy changes can take effect as soon as possible.

With every good wish,

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities
Minister for Intergovernmental Relations