Last week was my last chance to get around the constituency and see people during the week before MPs return to Westminster. From 6 September life takes another step towards normality with me travelling to London on a Monday morning and typically returning on a Thursday evening. Although this week I have a forum taking place over Thursday afternoon and Friday morning so will not return north until Friday pm.
My last week of freedom from Westminster started with me being on Radio 5 live to discuss antisocial behaviour. We need to see cohesive action from all affected partners, these include, of course, the police and local authority but also members of the public. It is critical that the Police and Crime Commissioner fulfils her role in focusing the priorities of the local force and I am pleased she sees ASB as a major point of concern. It will certainly be the subject of our discussions when we have a catch up and please can I encourage everyone to be sure to report any incidents as it is the level of reported crime that dictates priorities across the county. I know there are sometimes frustrations with the 101-call line and I have raised this with the PCC so please persevere.
I also had the opportunity to visit Roman Showers on the Industrial Estate, their CEO, David Osbourne, was kind enough to show me round. It is always fabulous to see world leading companies on our doorstep and Roman are certainly in that category. They supply many major hotel chains across the world and it was a pleasure to visit and listen to this success story but at the same time also hear David’s concerns around how trade tariffs and standards affect them and others. It is through visits like this that I can understand the needs of our businesses.
I also took the opportunity to hold a number of surgeries before Westminster commitments impose on my diary. We were at Heighington, Sedgefield, Wheatley Hill and Bishop Middleham over the course of the week. For the next few weeks surgeries will be limited but meetings can always be arranged at the office so if you want to meet please email us.
I was able to catch up with Alison and the Cancer Support Group when they were in Chilton. They are amazing people, if you need them or want to help them, please get in touch. I had a catch-up meeting with Livin and also met some residents to discuss the proposed running track near NETPark.
On Thursday I had the privilege of attending Durham Cathedral for the Durham Culture Awards. The award ceremony saw some fantastic performers recognised and we also had performances from musicians, dancers and poets. A very enjoyable evening.
On Saturday I went to join the amazing William Cooksey (Bill was deservedly the front-page story on last week’s Newton News) as he finished eight of his 10 days walking 10 miles. As you may already know, Bill is walking 100 miles to raise funds for the local NHS, an amazing man who has led a full life. Well done William and thanks for the funds you raise for our NHS.
BEIS this week saw us receive a briefing on the Investment Security Bill from Lord Callanan and officials, this is being proposed to address concerns around national security when business ownership changes and we will be seeing the full details later in the year.
At the time of writing the Prime Minister is leading the debate on Health and Social Care where the bullet has been bitten on both funding and obligations. The increase to National Insurance which has been completely hypothecated to health and social care with the highest 14% of earners paying around half of the revenues. The decision to cap the amount anyone pays is also welcome with no contribution from anyone with assets less than £20,000 and a maximum payment of £86,000. It is of course disappointing that this breaks a manifesto commitment on tax, but Covid has clearly meant different choices need to be made.
Parliament is now sitting in a more normal way but we all need to remember Covid is still with us so the Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air mantra continues and if you still haven’t sorted your vaccinations, you still can, so please do and help us all stay safe.
Paul Howell
Member of Parliament for Sedgefield