Claire's Column: 4th December

As the year draws to a close I find myself reflecting on changes locally and nationally.  One big development is the reinforcement of Wiltshire's position as the garrison county of Britain with Army changes that will see more activity, more investment and more service personnel living and working locally.  All this change could be disruptive if not planned but luckily Wiltshire Council, the MOD, health services, schools and local town and parish councillors are working together to ensure the investment is spent wisely and we are ready for the changes. 

Other changes have come in the health services this year as we heard during my Health Forums where a more joined-up approach has led to falling diagnosis times for diseases like dementia, and a sharpened focus on patients rather than "the system".  We have also seen a rising tide of economic activity that is lifting many local boats with inflation falling sharply and a fifteen percent reduction in people claiming Job Seekers Allowance this year – we now only have 868 JSA claimants across the constituency (less than 2 per cent of the working age population).  Other policies are delivering low interest rates for mortgage borrowers, tax cuts averaging £550 for more than 24 million people frozen council tax, and also pension increases now linked to the higher of earnings growth or inflation, and all of this is helping to boost our disposable incomes, providing a bit of welcome help in the run up to Christmas.

I have not done any of my Christmas shopping yet (PLEASE don't tell the Perry children), but I fully intend to do as much as possible of it locally.  I am very pleased to hit my local high streets this weekend during Small Business Saturday where we are all encouraged to support local services and shops.  While big chain stores do provide jobs, every pound spent there only delivers 43p to the local economy, compared to 68p for a pound spent at a local business.  Plus our high streets are made far more vibrant by the local choice and innovation that these businesses offer so please do join me and shop locally where you can on Saturday – and every week!

I will also be buying my Christmas tree locally at the 19th annual Burbage Christmas tree sale this weekend where I will be helping the team to sell fresh locally grown trees. This year the sale is bigger and better than ever and proceeds support the village hall and church so do come and join us.