Happy New Year to each and every one of you, I sincerely hope that we are all able to have a better year in 2022 than we were able to in 2021. It was disappointing to see a number of events cancelled due to Covid risks over the break, but I believe the restrictions implemented before Christmas were relatively light touch and appropriate and hope that these were followed with appropriate common sense by as many as possible. I must also say a huge thanks to Santa and Mrs Claus for getting out and about in the town in the days leading up to Christmas, the weather at times was particularly poor but I am sure they put smiles on many children’s faces, so well done to you and your helpers Santa.
I also had the pleasure of calling in to the Royal Mail sorting office on the industrial estate to thank our posties for all their efforts, looking at the routes it brought back memories of my paper rounds on the town. Posties go out in all weathers and deserve our appreciation, particularly with all the extra cards and small parcels they deliver at this time of year.
We have all seen the tremendous progress on booster jabs and I was able to call in to see the team from the Jubilee practice working at the Pioneering Care Partnership (PCP) a north east health and wellbeing charity with a base at Cobblers Hall, Newton Aycliffe. I am very grateful for their hard work and would like to thank them for their efforts, but they can only do their job if you do yours and turn up. Please can I encourage everyone to get jabbed or boosted as appropriate and reduce the risks as far as possible. There are walk-ins available but if you make an appointment and then find you can’t make it, please remember to cancel it so we don’t waste any vaccines.
Before heading to Westminster this week, I was able to do a session with the team from Play Café, this was a pleasure and I thank the team for all they do. The Play Café are a charity based at the Big Club in Sheraton Road, Newton Aycliffe and they offer free support during school holidays for families at risk of holiday hunger and social isolation. The team gift food, activities and groceries for the family at various pop-up cafe events across Newton Aycliffe.
The first week in January sees a relatively slow start in Westminster as the House did not return from recess until Wednesday and as usual it does not sit on Friday so I shall return north on Thursday. As I am writing this on Wednesday morning, I do not yet know how the business will go but Wednesday will see Prime Minister’s Questions at 3.00pm rather than the usual 12.00pm. This is because as it is the first day back, we are sitting with ‘Monday’ timings which means we start at 2.30pm and finish close to 11.00pm in the evening. I will go to PMQs before then heading to a Bill Committee for the rest of the session. The Bill Committee I am on is the Finance Bill which looks at the Government’s spending policy, following the spending review in December. This is what is called the committee stage where a cross party group of MPs review the Bill line by line before it returns to the House.
You may have noticed that in the final PMQs before Christmas I was able to bob for a question and the PM congratulated Hitachi on winning the HS2 contract and the team who submitted the bid for reopening Ferryhill railway station.
Once back in the Sedgefield constituency, I have meetings scheduled on Friday with the Fire Service and I am also looking forward to visiting businesses on Aycliffe industrial estate. We will soon put out our next schedule of surgeries but whilst my team are largely working from home we are still fully operational if you require our help. You can contact us at the usual email or phone numbers.
Please stay safe, look after you and those around you and let’s enjoy 2022.
Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield