IT seems that the colder temperatures are now starting to hit and we’re all having to peek out the curtain in the morning to see if the windscreen needs a scrape.

But along with the colder weather also comes the community spirit of Christmas.

We’ve already had a Christmas light switch-on in Brierley Hill, and more switch-on events to look forward to this weekend in Wordsley and Kingswinford.

Last weekend I also had the pleasure of opening the Christmas Bazaar at Wordsley Community Centre – which once again was a great success thanks to the efforts of Janet, Jane, the team and everyone involved. I also joined the Mayor of Dudley to launch the Christmas Tree Festival at Red House Glass Cone, and had a great time at Christmas Fayres in Kinver and at Dingle Community Centre.

A huge well done to all involved.

Last week saw Government make some big announcements that will make a positive difference for people here in Dudley South.

In the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, he outlined a series of measures which placed a heavy focus on helping workers, the self-employed, pensioners and small businesses as the driving force of economic growth.

The biggest headline measure was the reduction of Employee National Insurance Contributions which will drop from 12 per cent to 10 per cent providing a tax cut that will benefit 27 million UK workers. For the average worker earning £35,400 this will amount to a tax cut of £450 a year from January.

The National Living Wage is also set to rise to £11.44 from April 2024 and will be extended to those aged 21 and over for the first time.

Class 2 National Insurance which is paid by self-employed people who earn more than £12,570 will be completely abolished from April, and Class 4 National Insurance for self-employed (which is paid on profits between £12,570 and £50,270) will also be cut from nine per cent to eight per cent.

These measures represent some of the biggest tax cuts for ordinary working people since the 1980s, and pensioners are also set to benefit thanks to the Government standing by its policy of the Triple Lock which will see state pension payments increase by 8.5 per cent in line with average earnings.

Of course, economic prosperity is largely driven by economic growth, which is why the Chancellor also made major announcements to support businesses.

"Full expensing", which allows companies to deduct spending on new machinery and equipment from profits, has been made permanent to encourage investment. Retail, hospitality and leisure firms will benefit from the 75 per cent business rates discount which has been extended for another year. And £4.5bn of funding was announced to attract investment for green energy, aerospace, life sciences, zero-emission vehicles and other strategic manufacturing sectors.

Locally, we also had the great news that our bid for £20million of Levelling Up funding for a new Transport Technologies Centre in Brierley Hill has been approved.

The new centre will give local people a chance to get training and new skills to help them with careers in future transport technologies – including electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as the wider applications of electrification which will see new opportunities for local industries.

As well as creating new career opportunities for young people, the new TTC will play a vital part in making sure that our local engineering sector – and particularly automotive supply chains – can access the skills they will need to survive and thrive at a time when vehicle technologies are changing so rapidly.