It was fabulous to see the announcements from the Department for Education about the latest schools to benefit from the second round of the Prime Minister’s transformative school rebuilding programme. This latest announcement of the next 50 schools to benefit includes two in Newton Aycliffe, with both Sugar Hill and Woodham Academy benefiting.
This week is the last before Westminster goes into recess for the summer, this will give more opportunity for me in the constituency but will mean that there is less to say about things that are happening in Parliament. So, what I intend to do over the forthcoming weeks is to tell you a little more about the structure of Parliament and how it works, so if you have any particular questions you would like me to address just let me know.
First, let me update you on last week. I went to the virtual meeting of the APPG for weddings where we met with the Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt who is the Paymaster General and Paul Scully, the Minister for Small Business, to discuss the ongoing challenges for all of those in the wedding industry. I then went to the virtual joint meeting of the APPG for the Armed Forces Covenant and APPG for Veterans to hear Minister Leo Docherty talk to us. I also took the opportunity to call and introduce myself to the members of Middleton St George Parish Council before their meeting. I was a little early so also said hello to the Zumba class and was very nearly a participant, maybe another time!
Tuesday saw me at The Great Yorkshire Show to meet with the NFU. I have many, many farms in the constituency each with a variety of different challenges and it was a great opportunity to have time for them and their NFU representatives. There are so many changes going on that affect them through the Agriculture Bill and it is important I can give their regional perspective.
I caught up with the team who are working on the feasibility study for the reinstatement of a railway station at Ferryhill and was very encouraged by how the data is looking. This could be a game changer for Ferryhill and put another station in reach of people in Aycliffe.
I attended a briefing on the East Coast Cluster which is about the decarbonisation initiatives on Teesside and the Humber, there are many jobs and economic opportunities that will flow from these green projects as we work to reduce our carbon footprint.
I had a virtual tearoom surgery with Kit Malthouse the Minister for Policing where I raised a number of points around ASB and the need to improve the 101 phoneline. He had some good responses that I will raise with the PCC at my next meeting with her.
I was scheduled to visit Sedgefield Primary School, but this had to be cancelled due to a pupil testing positive, but I was able to visit Ferryhill Community and Business College. Like so many schools they are ready for the respite that the school holidays will bring after an incredibly busy time for all our school staff. The work they have all done through the pandemic has been amazing and I hope they can get some relief before September. However, they are also delivering some summer schools to help transitioning pupils so I continue to applaud their efforts and look forward to visiting again in the new school year.
Another focus for me remains the potential for using the Governments Levelling Up Fund to reimagine Newton Aycliffe Town Centre. The Durham County Council team that are working on the project gave me an update on progress and I was pleased to see some good potential opportunities, I have fed into them the information from our recent survey. It was also good to see that Great Aycliffe Town Council have created a working group focused on this same agenda. It’s imperative that we all work together to get the best from this opportunity.
Talking about the Town Centre it was great to see so many community organisations represented last Saturday, it was a credit to all who organised or participated. We have a great town with so many fabulous community groups. This Saturday it’s a Blue Light event with all the emergency services there, please come along and join them and take the time to spend with our hard-pressed retailers who have had an incredibly difficult year.
After this week’s surgery in Hurworth, next will be Ferryhill and then one in Woodham Community Centre, appointments are available at the surgeries or at the constituency office and if you would like one just send an email to my office.
We, of course, have now seen the release of a lot of the mandatory restrictions re everything from mask wearing to the number of people gathering together and the way pubs and restaurants operate. Please remember it’s incumbent on all of us to use common sense and the mantra of Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air remains as relevant as ever. The difference now is it’s about us deciding when it’s necessary as opposed to being told. An example for me would be I am likely to continue wearing a mask in a busy train, but I have the choice not to if the carriage is not full.
Please stay safe and be considerate to others.
Paul Howell
Member of Parliament for Sedgefield