This week it was my pleasure to be able to thank and compliment the vaccination team at Cobblers Hall for their efforts and I was delighted that the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, was able to take time out of his busy schedule to record a video recognising their efforts. For my constituency I also have a surgery based in Spennymoor that vaccinates into Ferryhill and the Trimdons etc and I was pleased to be able to call and see them this week too. These teams have been outstanding in their commitment and we continue to see that vaccination of the population is the way out of this crisis. As we see increased confidence in the effectiveness of vaccines this makes it even more important that we all get vaccinated as soon as we get the chance. I was delighted to get the offer of my second jab accelerated last week and have now had both and I obviously encourage everyone to do the same.
Last week we had a meeting between Baroness Vere and the team from my APPG on ‘left behind’ communities to discuss the latest APPG report on connecting communities. This report identified the need to help local authorities respond to local transport needs; to provide clear commitments for future local bus funding and to ensure that rail services, operating at reduced capacity because of the pandemic, can be restored and examine how rail reopening and investment in new capacity and community rail lines can be expedited, particularly in those neighbourhoods ‘left behind’ as a result of the Beeching cuts. It also covered investment in social infrastructure (community groups, etc) at a neighbourhood level to give ‘left behind’ communities a voice to boost their capacity and confidence to advocate for local needs.
With the increased freedom we have I was able to visit the Neighbourhood Policing team based in Peterlee who cover the villages in the north of my constituency. This team complements the Aycliffe based team but have substantially more significant antisocial behaviour to deal with. I have also joined sessions with the Weddings APPG and Durham University APPG, both of which help me to better understand their issues and where I can engage and help.
BEIS select committees continued. In the session on levelling up we interviewed Paul Scully, Minister for Small Business, Luke Hall, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, and Kate O’Neill, who is the director of policy for the Cities and Local Growth Unit. We examined what can be done to improve the everyday life and life chances for people in underperforming places around the country. In the session on Industrial Decarbonisation we talked about ensuring we are pursuing the right technological strategies to get the correct infrastructure in place and find practical solutions to reduce carbon emissions.
On Monday, for the first time in a few weeks, I came out of the draw for an OQ (Oral Question) this time to Ben Wallace, the Secretary of State for Defence. I asked him to make sure innovative businesses like Kromek in Sedgefield were fully considered in the MOD procurement processes and I invited him to come for a visit to see them for himself.
I was able to join the team at Maguires Holiday Homes at Newbus Grange Country Park, between Neasham and Hurworth, to promote the start of English Tourism Week (22-31 May 2021). The Country Park is stunning and attracts a surprising number of local people who have a home there for weekend breaks.
The lockdown continues to ease and all indications are that it will continue to stay on course, but we all need to do our part. Please understand, as we move forward, it is all about increasing our own personal responsibility and using our common sense. The rules will become less prescriptive as we recover the personal freedoms we all crave which is why it’s up to us all to be sensible and follow the Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air guidance. Even though you can go back into pubs etc it just makes sense to be cautious and take your time getting back to normal – Stay Safe.
Paul Howell
Member of Parliament for Sedgefield