This has been a week with two big lows in it for me, not only was it incredibly sad to hear that Honest John passed away last Friday but on Monday my good friend and ex boss, Dale Alexander, also passed on. Both of these men made a real impression on me and both will be sorely missed, RIP gents.

Before that, my first efforts last week were to attend Durham County Council’s meeting last Wednesday where the annual budget was passed by Council, there was no acknowledgement that this years funding was significantly better than the council anticipated only a few months ago and all of the opposition amendments were voted down. It was disappointing that there was a constant theme from the opposition benches that members were not being listened to and I heard nothing in the responses from Cabinet to make me disagree with the claims. With more defections from Labour to Independent in recent weeks, we can only hope that in May 2021 voters elect enough non Labour members to remove this absolute control.

The best parts of my week are always when I can get out and about and this week gave me some great opportunities. I have been to Net Park for discussions with one of the high tech companies to see some amazing tools they are creating to keep us safe; a trip around the port of Tees to see the great plans they are developing and I was at Teesside Airport for the launch of a Tees Valley Magazine promoting our region.

In between these I went to Ferryhill Station to visit the Primary school where I am a Governor and do a walkabout with the CAT team. The CAT (Community Action Team) do fabulous work in trying to help improve neighbourhoods and they always impress me. I also joined the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey, in a visit to Husqvarna on Newton Aycliffe Business Park before then accompanying her to visit the Ferryhill Ladder Centre chaired by Cllr Peter Atkinson. This is a community building, bought by the community for the community, it opened in 2002 and they offer courses and support with CV’s, Universal Job Match, advice and guidance, children and youth sessions. They were able to share their challenges and needs direct with the Secretary of State which made this a very worthwhile visit. I also took a tour round the Trimdon, Thornley and Wheatley Hill area with community leaders.

Another pleasure during the week was the Aycliffe Mayors Civic Dinner on Friday, a lovely event hosted by Cllr Mary Dalton. Mary was quick to tell me both how young she was and that she hadn’t voted for me, I have told her she can try harder next time! We had a great evening with a number of other Mayors and Councillors present and raised money for her chosen charity S.S.A.F.A. (The Armed Forces Charity).

I continue to lobby the Government for a fair Fair Funding Review and I have met with both Council leaders to ensure I am fully briefed on their priorities and on both Monday and Tuesday I met with the Chancellor and was able to promote the priorities for us locally as he finalises his Budget preparations.

This week I look forward to surgeries in both Sedgefield and Middleton St George and we hope to move into our office in Newton Aycliffe.

Have a good week

Paul Howell

Member of Parliament

for Sedgefield