It is great to see the Newton News back in hard copy, and the new “magazine” style is a fabulous step forward, we can certainly see what they have been up to in lockdown. Well done to all the team for maintaining the online version but I am sure we are all delighted to see it back in print. It’s another step towards the new normal. Please support the local advertisers, they will have had a tough time over the last few months.

With the latest announcement, that from 4 July, we can social distance at 1 metre plus and hairdressers, restaurants and pubs can reopen, we continue to edge towards an exit to the worst of the pandemic, but it is crucial that we do not take liberties with the virus. Whilst the guidelines are we can social distance at 1 metre plus, this means at least 1 metre and where appropriate with other mitigations like face masks or avoiding face to face seating. Please use common sense and give yourself as much space as practical.

The last week has seen a number of really productive, interesting discussions and meetings. One of these was a session with the High Speed Rail Group where we discussed how important it is that local and regional rail infrastructure development is a key critical part of the plans to improve public transport in the UK. You may have seen that we are promoting both the reopening of Ferryhill Rail Station to passengers and the reconstruction of the Leamside Line. (You can find more information and links on our work on this via my Facebook page Paul Howell MP for Sedgefield). Related to this on Friday we submitted our application to the New Ideas Fund for the Ferryhill Station project. My team are really enthusiastic and committed to this project and worked incredibly hard on this application so we all have our fingers crossed for success.

I also joined discussions with Simon Clarke, Minister for Local Government to discuss levels of funding and understand both the funding support already issued to our local authorities and how the government are evaluating their next steps.

I was delighted that our APPG on “Left Behind Communities” was inaugurated last week. If you would like to know more please check out Where you can find more information on the importance of social, as well as physical infrastructure. We also believe that this may have been the first “virtually” inaugurated APPG.

The BEIS select committee on Friday was the final session on our review of support for Business and Employees. This time we heard from representatives of the Unions. This was a very interesting session and so much so that the session over ran from our allocated time.

Friday saw me able to visit both Sugar Hill School and the University Technical College. Sugar Hill was my own old Primary school way back in the mists of time so it was really fun to go back and visit. Whilst there I was able to thank the children who had made cards for Renee Glover who was 106 at the weekend. Mrs Glover was an Aycliffe Angel during the war and part of a key period in our local history. I delivered the cards to Renee’s home on the children’s behalf, all properly socially distanced of course.

My visit to the UTC was to congratulate them on being one of the educational establishments selected to provide T levels. However we also discussed the importance of technical education and the vital need for appropriate funding support for the Further Education sector and I have written to the Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education expressing this. For any of your children who have an aptitude towards engineering having the UTC on our doorstep is a fabulous resource. They have students prepared to travel from as far away as Newcastle because of the amazing opportunities they provide, so please check it out.

Last, but by no means least, was a meeting between the North East MP’s and the team at No 10 where we reviewed progress on our local priorities and I had the opportunity to shout up for Sedgefield.

It was also extremely good to get out and visit a few of the shops that have just reopened in the Town Centre and I would encourage you all to do the same. These small businesses have had a real tough time over recent weeks with many having no sales at all. They have worked incredibly hard and made great efforts to put social distancing safety protocols in place so if you can support them they would be very pleased to see you.

Remember stay alert, control the virus and save lives.

Paul Howell MP

MP for Sedgefield – – 020 7219 6385