THIS week I was delighted to visit Yeoford, Hatherleigh and Chudleigh Knighton primary schools to present prizes for my annual Christmas card competition, sponsored this year by Ashburton Post Office, writes MP Mel Stride.

Congratulations to winner Ellis Withey, six, from Yeoford Community Primary School and runners up Ella Ferguson, 10, from Hatherleigh Community Primary School, and Connie Chalmers, eight, from Chudleigh Knighton Church of England Primary.

I hand delivered the card featuring Ellis’ design to the Prime Minister in December, who thought the snowmen design was fantastic. It was also sent to over 1,000 friends, family, colleagues and local community groups across Central Devon.

I thoroughly enjoyed presenting all three children with a prize of an art set, which I hope will inspire them to continue their artist endeavours.

Whilst I was at the schools, I also had an opportunity to speak to some of the older Year 6 pupils about being a Member of Parliament. 

My thanks to those hardworking teachers who had prepared them with such tricky questions! Everything from whether pineapple should ever be used as a pizza topping to what assessment I made of excess morbidity rates since the pandemic.

I really value the opportunity to speak to the next generation about the importance of democracy and getting engaged with politics.

It isn’t always obvious to children how politics impacts their daily lives, so it is great to be able to explain how it all works and the importance of democracy so they become more informed citizens.

Discussing politics at school also helps get more people voting as adults and may even inspire some to get involved with improving their local communities or pursue careers in public service themselves.

I have 43 primary schools spread out across our vast constituency try to visit as many as I can across the year.

It was also a big week for hard working people across the country, with the cut to National Insurance announced in the autumn statement coming into effect.

From Saturday 6 January 2024, the main rate of National Insurance Contributions (NICs) was cut from 12p to 10p.

This delivers an annual average tax cut of £450 to 27 million workers, including for many thousands of people right here in Central Devon. Household where 2 people work on average pay will be almost a thousand pounds a year better off.

This tax cut would not have been possible without having taken the difficult decisions to required to help halve inflation.

Later this year, we will abolish an entire class of National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and cut the rate of the NICs top rate from nine per cent to eight per cent for the self-employed. 

This will mean an average total saving of around £350 for someone earning £28,000 a year.

Taking the long-term, difficult decisions to halve inflation and strengthen the economy means the government has been able to cut personal taxes and reward hard work across the country and right here in Central Devon.