James Gray MP has welcomed the Government’s confirmation that Wiltshire will see its budget increased by 7% this year, as part of the Conservatives’ commitment to level up local services across the country.

Local authorities across the country will receive a share of £49.2 billion local government funding this year – a 4.4 per cent real terms increase and the largest year-on-year real terms increase in a decade. Funding for key public services in will be protected, with significant extra resources dedicated to areas where they are needed most. Thanks to the investment being made by the Conservatives, including Wiltshire will have an extra £25.2 million to spend this year.

Thanks to measures taken by the Conservatives, local authorities will be able to prevent excessive Council Tax rises – striking the right balance between the interests of council taxpayers and addressing pressures on services.

Mr Gray said that:

“Local authorities play a vital role in our communities, providing the crucial local services that people rely on every day. I work closely with Wiltshire Council and greatly appreciate the help and support they provide to my constituents on a daily basis.

“I am therefore extremely pleased to see that the Council was awarded an extra £25.2 million to spend this year funding this year; this is a truly significant increase and can make a great difference to our community. I am hopeful that this investment will help our local leaders make positive change in the area and meet the challenges North Wiltshire faces.”

North Wiltshire MP James Gray has congratulated Alicia Hempleman Adams, who lives in Box in his constituency, for breaking the hot air balloon world record. She achieved the record last week when she flew more than 15,000 feet in the air.

Alicia endured temperatures as low as –30C as she broke the women’s world record for altitude in a small hot air balloon. She flew an AX4 hot air balloon for an hour and 46 minutes at Calgary in Alberta, Canada to achieve the new record. The record was previously held by Irishwoman Pauline Baker, who set the previous record of 14016ft in January 2008.

Mr Gray said that:

“This is a fantastic achievement and Alicia should be extremely proud of the hard work and effort she has put into achieving this goal. It is not easy to beat world records, and this challenge was particularly dangerous, so it is certainly something to celebrate.

I am sure she will continue to work hard and will follow in the footsteps of her renowned explorer father, Sir David Hempleman-Adams. I look forward to seeing what Alicia can achieve next.”

On Saturday, North Wiltshire MP James Gray attended an Open Afternoon at Colerne Village Hall to celebrate Village Halls Week 2020.

At the event, people from across the village came together to acknowledge the Hall’s accomplishments, and the regular user groups were able to present and explain the work and activities that they do.

The campaign is an annual and national celebration of rural community spaces and the people whose time and dedication keep them going. Organised by the ACRE Network, and supported by DEFRA, the campaign runs in January and sees a huge variety of events happening across England.

After the event Mr Gray said that:

“I was extremely pleased to have attended this event to learn more the Hall’s achievements and activities over the years. Village halls are the heart of rural communities, they bring people together; they provide a meeting space essential for tackling loneliness and can provide vital services that communities might otherwise lose.

I greatly appreciate the work that the dedicated volunteers do to keep the community halls running and ensuring that people in our villages still have places to meet. Colerne village hall is a wonderful example of this, and I was so glad to have been able to be part of this event.”

North Wiltshire MP James Gray has criticised the decision of Lloyds Banking Group to close two of their branches in Malmesbury and Calne. The Lloyds branches in Calne and Malmesbury will be closing on 13 and 29 July respectively.

James has contacted Lawrence Finkle, Group Public Affairs Manage at Lloyds Banking Group to highlight his opposition to the closures, and stress the need for a long term solution to this problem. Lloyds will be operating a mobile branch at both locations, and the nearest local Post Offices will also provide banking services. However, Mr Gray was keen to ensure that these solutions were permanent and that his constituents still had access to the services they need over the next few years.

Mr Gray stated that:

“If you were to view the decision from a purely commercial stand-point, I can understand that you need to ensure that Lloyds Bank are constantly reviewing their network and making the most cost-effective decisions for their business. The rise of internet banking has indeed meant that fewer people visit their bank branches.

However, I was extremely disappointed by their decision because so many people, especially in a rural constituency like North Wiltshire, do continue to rely on their local branches. I have already been contacted by a number of constituents about this issue, all of whom, are very concerned about the decision. Therefore, we need to ensure that a viable solution is in place.”

On Tuesday, North Wiltshire MP James Gray led a debate in Westminster Hall on Antarctic Science and Diplomacy. The debate marked the 200th anniversary of the first sighting of Antarctica on the 27th January 1820, (claimed by the Russian Bellingshausen, but actually seen -and mapped - by Brit Edward Bransfield a few days earlier).

The debate highlighted the role Britain had played in discovering Antarctica, scientific research on it, (thanks to the British Antarctic Survey), leading the Antarctic Treaty system, the Convention for the Conservation of Marine Living Resource, and the Environmental Protection Protocol which effectively designated Antarctica as a natural reserve.

The debate also focused on the Antarctic Treaty which entered into force in 1961 and was signed by 12 countries. It prohibits new or expanded territorial claims in Antarctica, and means that Antarctica is set aside as a “natural reserve devoted to peace and science.” 

Ahead of COP26 later this year, the speakers in the debate stressed the need to learn from the successful international diplomacy used to agree The Antarctic Treaty, to tackle the climate crisis.

Speaking during the debate, Mr Gray stated that:

“We must move forward from the relatively peaceful times we have had in Antarctica over the past couple of hundred years, because some astonishing and appalling things are occurring down there. Unless we do something about it now, significant changes will come in Antarctica…

Britain has truly led the world in terms of science and diplomacy, and we should be proud of that, but there is an awful lot more to be done. With climate change and the growth in fishing and tourism, the treaty system needs to redouble its efforts on biosecurity in Antarctica. The treaty parties must remain vigilant and ensure that the co-operation of the past 60 years continues and endures into the future.”