Everything Creative, tax credits scandal and inspiring St Abbs

Last Tuesday I was invited to say a few words at the launch of Creative Coathanger’s Everything Creative Festival, this is a very welcome new initiative to use creativity to boost the profile of the region off the back of the Borders Railway.

The sheer range of events – from a beer festival, exhibitions, open days and film screenings – showcases the breadth of talent we have in the Borders.

But while our culture and heritage is second to none, we’re not the best at shouting about it. This new drive to harness creativity as a draw for visitors and locals alike is a really welcome sign that this approach is changing.

I hope that this festival, which is currently focused on Galashiels, Selkirk and Hawick, grows over time to take in the whole of the Borders and becomes a fixture of our cultural calendar.   

Tax Credits Scandal

I recently wrote the chief executive of HMRC to express dismay at the conduct of their third party contractor Concentrix – a multi-billion pound company that have left a trail of misery for numerous claimants in recent weeks.

My office has been dealing with a high volume of cases, many of them brought by single parents who have had their Tax Credit payments stopped at short notice, through no fault of their own. This company’s highly questionable practices are an example of just how out of touch the Tory government is when it comes to the lives of ordinary folk.

In-work benefits provide a crucial lifeline for many people who would otherwise struggle to make ends meet. 19% of my constituents claim Child or Working Tax Credits – with 5 million households claiming in the UK as a whole.

I therefore welcomed the news that Concentrix will not have its contract with HMRC renewed when it expires next year.

Inspiring St Abbs success

Last week I attended the official launch of the new Independent St Abbs Lifeboat. It was a delight to see huge crowds out in the village, with the First Minister and Boyd Tunnock (who has offered incredible support to the project) in attendance.

It’s amazing to think it was just over a year ago that the community was reeling from the news that the RNLI was to close the station.

One of my first meetings as an MP was with the lifeboat crew, who back then were still trying to reverse the RNLI’s decision. The campaign that I helped coordinate provided a platform that allowed the village to take the bold and impressive step to keep the lifeboat going on an independent basis.  

That the community managed to come together to pull off this remarkable feat is one of the most inspiring stories of people power in action I can recall.

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