Column by Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie

The cost of living is a big worry for many people across Stroud, the Valleys and Vale. I know local people are really concerned about prices, in particular for gas and petrol and diesel.

I joined over 50 MP colleagues in asking the Chancellor to cut fuel duty and I have made representations to the Chancellor and the government directly seeking targeted measures that help the poorest in our communities. The reality is that the inflationary pressure and the impact of various world events will have an impact on us all for a long time to come.

However, there is one area where the country, and Stroud in particular, is doing very well economically. That is with job vacancies and the number of people in work.

The latest local Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) data shows the number of people in work and paying tax is now at 53,458 in Stroud.

This is higher than in February 2020 before the pandemic struck. There are now 1068 more people in work and paying tax locally than back then and in the last quarter the position has risen by 592. This indicates a strong jobs recovery for the Stroud District.

Employers are also now coming into our local Job Centre to recruit staff due to the abundance of vacancies and the local DWP team are doing more than ever to link people to jobs in addition to SGS college and the Growth Hub. This is good news in what is a challenging time.

The success in the job market obviously does not take away the pressures everyone is feeling with the cost of living but it is important that jobs are available and people are working if the country is to cope with the challenges we face.

Last weekend saw me travel to Gloucester cathedral for the declaration of office of the new High Sheriff of Gloucestershire - Air Marshal Sir Dusty Miller.

The Office of High Sheriff is perhaps not that well known but its origins go back to Saxon times when the Shire Reeve was responsible to the monarch for law and order and the collection of taxes. Today, it is an unpaid independent non-political Royal appointment for a single year.

There are 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales. The role has, of course, changed but here is still a focus on law and order and supporting the crown.

High Sheriffs these days lend support and encouragement to crime prevention agencies, the emergency services and to the voluntary sector. A warm welcome to Sir Dusty in this important role.

Last week in Parliament, I asked a question in the House of Commons asking for the authorities to do all they can to promote school children to visit parliament and thanked the Parliamentary education teams for the virtual visits they arranged over the pandemic.

Many local primary schools used the virtual system and I had two local schools visit in person just a few weeks ago – the first since the pandemic.

Our local schools in Stroud are full of inquisitive students and the teachers are brilliant at teaching about democracy.

It is always great to have young people grilling us in politics and to see how engaged and passionate they are. I look forward to welcoming more Stroud schools to Westminster and if any school would like to visit, please get in touch.