I am delighted to be able to contribute to this edition of the Rushall, Shelfield, Pelsall and Brownhills Neighbourhood Watch Magazine.

Since I last wrote for Street Talk at the start of the year 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 a degree of hardship and social isolation. Our natural instinct as human beings is to socialise and mix with our friends and family, however a major requirement of our battle to flatten the peak of the pandemic required us all to stay at home so that we could protect our precious NHS as well as the lives of our neighbours and loved ones.

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.

It was however, regrettable that during lockdown in parts of Brownhills and Shelfield we were subjected to a series of incursions of Unauthorised Traveller Encampments. A number of 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 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.

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 and 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. At a time when we have secured millions of pounds of extra police funding from the Government, it would be wrong that residents in our local communities would be left without any policing base.

Finally, at the end of July I was delighted to be able to visit The Watch again at Pelsall Hub and meet with Edwin Venables and Bernard Cartwright on their first day of reopening following the lockdown.

As we all adapt to a ‘new normal’ and ease our way out the lockdown, I very much hope to be able to see some of you in the coming weeks and, once again, I send a heartfelt thanks to Neighbourhood Watch for all that you do to help keep Rushall, Shelfield, Brownhills and Pelsall safe.