Last Tuesday in Westminster I attended a briefing regarding the new Covid related powers for local authorities to be able to facilitate a snap shutdown if their local area becomes a hotspot. These are quite far reaching powers for local authorities and obviously we don’t want our area to have to undergo such an exercise, but it was good to be made aware of the plans and approach. It is very important to the more of us that we all stay mindful of Covid prevention measures, wash our hands regularly and wear masks whenever appropriate.

On Wednesday I had a meeting with the Chief Whip and I also attended a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act. On Wednesday evening I took part in the last meeting of the 1922 Committee before recess, where the Prime Minister took the opportunity to speak with us.

On Thursday morning I was back in the Constituency office to meet a local business owner. We can now meet residents in the office, obviously with social distancing procedures in place, so if any residents would prefer to do so, please do get in touch with us and we will gladly book you in. Thursday afternoon I attended a meeting with officers from Durham County Council during which I again pressed for urgent action and support on the issues within our area with rural broadband access. This was followed by a conservative MPs’ team meeting with our Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, discussing some of the excellent initiatives for local growth and employment that he and his staff are progressing.

As Covid is now allowing we are having more local meetings. Now that the restrictions have lifted a little it is good to be able to have some more “in person” meetings with residents and be able to visit them, whilst email and telephone contact is good, some issues are definitely best addressed by attending in person and seeing for yourself what needs to be done.

Inspector Sarah Honeyman met with us in our office to give us an update on Newton Aycliffe policing. As part of our remit for the Constituency we have started regular meetings with all Neighbourhood Police officers to keep up to date on the wide-ranging policing matters within our communities. I also attended a meeting with the Newton Aycliffe Town Centre Manager, Paul Smith, and our neighbourhood PCSO officers where we discussed some of the works undertaken recently by the landlords, including new security fencing and other safety measures. I also visited Kromek on the Sedgefield NetPark business park. I am always amazed by the high tec work undertaken at NetPark and every visit is fascinating. My Office Manager Rachel and I visited constituents with various different issues in Wingate, Trimdon and Wheatley Hill.

On my return to the office I had a quick turn around after some further telephone calls and visited Play Café at The Big Club with my newest staff member Joe to help out. Whilst I was there I became a member of the Big Club, so hopefully I might well see some of you there for a pint over recess! It was brilliant to see the bar open again after all the refurbishment work the team have done during lockdown.

The government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme begins next week, if you can take advantage of this please do. There is an App launched by government which shows which establishments in your postcode area are taking part and local businesses will also advertise if they are in the scheme. I know that they would be very grateful for customers to take advantage of this scheme if possible.

As ever I must remind everyone to remember to take every precaution with regard to Coronavirus. We must, if at all possible, try to avoid a second wave or local hotspot. Please remember your social distancing, hand washing and remember we must now wear masks in most retail premises, unless exempt.

Best Wishes and Stay Safe,

Paul Howell

Member of Parliament for Sedgefield