A message as we look forward to 2019
I very much hope you have had a lovely Christmas with family and friends. Thank you for all your good wishes. The festive season is coming to a close with tonight’s celebrations to welcome in 2019. Strictly, January 6th or Twelth Night marks the end of Christmas but for the majority, life will return to normal in the next few days. The constituency office opens on Thursday 3 January though the team and I continue to monitor and answer emails.
I am looking forward to 2019 with trepidation. It is going to be a challenging year nationally and to a lesser extent locally. Like it or not, Brexit is going to continue to dominate politics and indeed our economic fortunes or otherwise, as we are due to leave the EU at the end of March.
If Parliament backs the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement and her plans come to fruition, then you will notice little if any change after our departure. The arguments and uncertainty about our future trading deal with the EU will continue as neither the Government nor Parliament has agreed on its vision of that final settlement and the negotiations have barely begun.
If, as is widely predicted, Parliament fails to back Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement then frankly I do not know what will happen. I have argued for Parliament to examine all the available options; we certainly must reject a ‘no deal’ Brexit. I think there is every chance that having reached an impasse Brexit will return to the electorate for a People’s Vote on the matter. A General Election is certainly not a solution especially as both main parties back Brexit.
Brexit is dominating the Government to the point of stifling work on other important issues. The extra £20 billion for the NHS is hugely welcome, but the publication of the 10 year plan has been delayed and we are still failing to grasp the very real demands of an ageing population. Nottinghamshire County Council which provides our most vital services is facing real financial challenges, not through any failing on its part but because of a national political failing to find sustainable solutions to a growing crisis in social and health care for older people.
I also believe we are failing to face up to the very real challenges of rapid technological change against a back drop of falling wages in real terms. Whilst artificial intelligence and other advances will improve all our lives, it will also mean fewer jobs in the future even though we are enjoying record levels of employment. In any event we have a shortage of skilled workers and higher skilled workers earn higher wages. Youth unemployment is at a record low but there are still 783,000 people aged 16-24 not in education, employment or training. We need a skilled a workforce if we are to stand a chance of weathering any Brexit storms and the predicted down turn in the world economy. Despite our best intentions there are still problems with our apprenticeship and training initiatives that need addressing urgently.
This leads me on to local matters that will need tackling in 2019. I will be increasing my support and work with the Midland Engine – you may have heard of it (if not get more information from the web site www.midlandsengine.org). In short it brings together all the relevant people and organisations across the Midlands, not just to address the problems I’ve identified of building a skilled, well paid workforce, but also to grow our local economy and improve education for all, create better transport systems and help improve communities across both the East and West Midlands. As a former business Minister I am particularly keen to get business more involved, especially our smaller and medium sized enterprises. We really must get a full commitment from the Government about HS2 coming to Toton Sidings. I will work on helping to create the new development Board to deliver the economic growth HS2 is set to deliver and campaign for a tunnel to run under Long Eaton to emerge just north of Nuthall. I believe there is not just an environmental case for deep tunnel to deliver HS2 but also an economic one. A tunnel will avoid years of intense disruption to our most important roads – the A52. A610 and the M1 and that will hit our local economy particularly hard. A tunnel will also avoid a hideous 60 foot viaduct through Trowell!
The introduction of Universal Credit (UC) for new claimants in Broxtowe is going well but only because of the work we have done to prepare for it. I want to thank Conservative run Broxtowe Borough Council, the Citizens Advice Bureau and Job Centre Plus for their combined efforts, in no small part due to the meeting I convened earlier this year. However, I remain concerned about the actual workings of UC – so I will step up my campaigning work in Parliament to make sure the necessary changes are made. Locally, we have always had excellent voluntary and non – voluntary systems of support for people who fall on hard times or face unusually difficult circumstances. But there are “gaps” notably in Kimberley and filling that gap will be a priority in 2019.
I finish sort of where I began – looking at the need for better skilled, well paid jobs in Broxtowe. One of the benefits of people earning more will be their ability to get on the housing ladder and own a home of their own. Locally, Broxtowe is on its way to delivering hundreds of new homes and I will continue to support innovative new housing developments especially when they deliver homes for constituents who are able to take advantage of the Government’s first time buyers scheme.
Broxtowe is a great place and our town centres have weathered the heavy storms battering other high streets throughout Britain. Beeston is beginning to take off and the development of the town centre will be a hugely beneficial boost. Kimberley is blessed with a well organised and hard working Town Council, some excellent Borough Councillors and outstanding local businesses, all of them are working well together though there is more to be done. Stapleford has masses of potential and in particular the town must take advantage of HS2. It needs, dare I say, some new “blood” to compliment some excellent Borough Councillors, dedicated Town Councillors and again some outstanding local businesses.
As the MP I will certainly continue to make the case for all three towns to receive their fair share of the various initiatives to support our high streets during these difficult times.
Finally, there will definitely be one set of elections this coming year – we will go to polls in May to elect Councillors for Broxtowe Borough and our town and parish Councils. I believe the Conservative group on the Borough has done a really good job in the last four years. Hard working, moderate and honourable Councillors deserve to be re-elected.
Whatever your plans for this evening, have a lovely time.
I wish you, your family and friends a very happy new year.