I completely understand the impact rising inflationary pressures are having on hard-pressed residents, which is why I have organised a special meeting of the Test Valley Partnership next week to come up with an action plan to try and help people further. The borough council already provides a broad range of support to individuals and families - including £815k to the Citizens Advice Bureau over the next three years to provide advice on benefits, debt reduction and other practical support; the work our housing service does to get people into accommodation and support them to stay there; paying out the £150 energy rebate payments; administering food vouchers as part of the Household Support Fund; providing council tax and housing benefit support; helping to develop the networks of local groups who often work with people most in need in communities; and internally, we have moved all of our lowest-paid workers onto a higher pay band.  

Although we don’t have infinite resources, I’m sure there are ways we can do more. The special meeting of the Test Valley Partnership will provide a platform for partner organisations to discuss what we are all already doing, identify any gaps and determine whether there is anything further we could do locally to assist. Whether that be signposting, other practical support or perhaps even some one-off targeted assistance to relevant organisations.  

In the spirit of cross-party working - and in recognition of the scale of the issue - I have invited the Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Celia Dowden to jointly host this meeting with me and I’m pleased she has accepted. I look forward to working with her and other members of the partnership to do what we can to help people through these tough times. 

Finally, huge congratulations to the Lionesses, who became European Champions last weekend. A massive boost for women’s football and female sport more widely. My daughter was encouraged to stay up for extra time. In fact, we’ve been blessed with another female sporting role model this week as our own Holly Mills from Hurstbourne Tarrant has been competing in the Heptathlon at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. A real inspiration to us all.