THIS is my first column of 2024, so I would like to start by wishing all readers a very Happy New Year.

As we go into the new year, there are reasons to be optimistic that many of the economic challenges we faced in the UK and around the world last year will continue to ease.

Just before Christmas, it was confirmed that inflation has more than halved from over 11 per cent to 3.9 per cent - showing that the Prime Minister’s plan is working, and alongside the tax cut measures announced in the Autumn Statement, this should help ease pressure on households and businesses.

Of course, one of the key tax cutting measures in the Autumn Statement was the two per cent cut in National Insurance contributions which is going to benefit a whopping 27 million working people. The cut comes into effect from this month and will see the average working person pay £450 less tax this year.

With Parliament not sitting again till the beginning of this week, I had the chance to start the year getting back out and about with some of our fantastic local councillors and volunteers. I joined Cllr Kerry Lewis and the Friends of Wordsley Park for a community clean-up at King George V Park in Wordsley, and another community clean-up in Perton with hardworking local councillors Rita Heseltine, Phil Davis, Chris Evans and local residents who also came along to help.

Whether it’s the countryside, designated green belt or small and local green spaces near our homes, they matter to each of our communities and we must continue to appreciate their value. I have campaigned to protect our precious green spaces since I was first elected in 2015 and will continue to make the case for protecting them whenever that case needs to be made. Another cause which I feel incredibly strongly about is that of sub-postmasters whose lives were ruined by the shameful Horizon system failures between 1999 and 2015.

Due to no fault of their own, over 700 sub-postmasters were wrongly convicted of theft, false accounting and fraud. For many, it devastated their whole lives – splitting families, ruining reputations, ending careers and tragically taking many victims to the point of questioning whether life was worth living.

While no amount of money can compensate the damage done to the lives of so many of the victims, it is important that we as a country make sure justice is delivered as truly as it can be.

In my role as Whip for the Department for Business and Trade, I helped take the Post Office (Horizon System) Compensation Bill through Parliament on the last sitting day before Christmas and have been supporting the Minister who has been working hard for a long time to make sure the sub-postmasters get justice and that all remaining wrong convictions are over turned as soon as possible. I will continue to play whatever part I can to make that happen.