I am delighted to be able to contribute to this edition of the Aldridge North Neighbourhood Watch Magazine.

Since I last wrote for the magazine at the beginning of March we have indeed been living through unprecedented times.   Covid-19 has brought many challenges to us as individuals, as families and as communities and we have endured some of the most draconian measures as a nation in peacetime as we seek to fight the battle against this virus.

I know that for many people the lockdown brought hardship and social isolation. Our natural instinct as human beings is to socialise and mix with our friends and family, and yet a major requirement in the battle to flatten the peak of the pandemic required us all to stay at home so that we could protect our precious NHS, and the lives of our loved ones, friends and neighbours.

However, if I were to take one thing from the lockdown it is the increased sense of neighbourliness we have seen, whether it was the Thursday night ‘Clap for Carers’ or the extra mile so many have gone to, in supporting others with either a friendly word, a phone call or a helping hand.

Right across my constituency I have been touched by the generosity of so many people who have helped others, and not least the on-going work of the Neighbourhood Watch in supporting its members and the wider community. Thank you to you all.

And now, at the point of writing this article, the rate of infection for Covid-19 has regrettably increased and new measures including the ‘Rule of 6’ have now been implemented in law to ensure that we protect ourselves and the wider community from this indiscriminate disease.   My message to everyone is to continue to follow the rules and the guidance, and stay safe.

Turning to other local matters, it was regrettable that during lockdown in Aldridge we had a number of Unauthorised Traveller Encampments. Several constituents contacted me and I worked closely with Walsall Council to ensure that the encampments were removed and the sites cleared at the earliest opportunity.  As a result of these latest Unauthorised Encampments I wrote to the Home Secretary, the Rt. Honourable Priti Patel MP to request an update on the Government’s consultation to strengthen the law to deal with this issue. I have been assured that the Government remain committed to action on this issue.

I am also very aware that throughout lockdown and the broader Covid-19 response, our local Police have been at the forefront of dealing with the pandemic, and they deserve our sincere thanks.   This has further reinforced my belief in the importance of local Neighbourhood policing, and that our local Police force need to retain a local base in our area. I have therefore once again written to the Police and Crime Commissioner about his plans to close Aldridge Police Station.

Whilst I have been assured that no decision to close Aldridge Police Station will be taken before next year’s Police and Crime Commissioner election, I will be continuing to follow this very closely.  I remain firmly of the belief that no decision should be taken without a full and proper consultation, and furthermore, that there must be a continued base for our local officers.   Local police stations are at the very heart of responsive community policing, and that includes here in Aldridge.

I once again want to reiterate my sincere thanks to everyone involved with the Aldridge North Neighbourhood Watch for all that you do to help keep our local community safe.  Take care and stay safe.