Unsurprisingly Brexit and our future relationship with the European Union continue to dominate the political debate in Westminster, and many of you have been in touch with me about what is without doubt one of the biggest, if not the biggest, political issue of recent times.
As I am writing this article the Prime Minister is engaged in a series of bilateral meetings with European Heads of Government to seek greater reassurance for Parliamentarians on the question of the Northern Ireland “backstop”. We await further news of these talks.
The vast majority of us accept the outcome of the referendum and want to leave the EU with a deal. As such Parliament has a responsibility to discharge its duty and if we will the ends, we must also will the means.
Closer to home and last week we saw the welcome announcement from Government of £36 million towards a new Emergency Department at Walsall Manor Hospital. This will benefit residents right across the Borough, including here in Streetly. It was secured thanks to Chief Executive Richard Beeken and his team of hard working staff at The Manor, and a funding bid to which I was very pleased to be able to add my support. This local funding announcement is part of a much bigger £1 billion funding stream for healthcare facilities across England, and is a clear demonstration of the Government’s strong commitment to our NHS.
With so many small businesses forming the backbone of our local economy I was pleased to once again be able to support this year’s Small Business Saturday. My day began on Boundary Road with a visit, and an amazing breakfast at The Brew House, where I was able to hear first-hand from Jane Oakes on how she was rising to the challenges and opportunities of starting a new business. I know from my own experience how challenging the first few months can be for any new business and I will continue to work to ensure our businesses receive the right support from Government. By shopping local we can all support our local High Streets and retail areas and the businesses we have on our doorstep.
And now to Christmas! The recent Christmas Tree Festival at All Saints Parish Church once again saw inspirational designs and wonderful decorations from many of our local businesses, churches, voluntary groups and schools. Our thanks should go to them all for participating and to Reverend Mandy Walker and her team for putting on this excellent community event.
As this will be my final column before Christmas I would like to take this opportunity to pause for a moment and reflect: to remember those who are elderly, unwell or alone at Christmas, and those less fortunate than ourselves: to acknowledge the service and dedication of our Armed Forces those who work around the clock in life-saving healthcare, policing, fire and rescue, and emergency services for us all. It has been once again a privilege to be your Member of Parliament throughout 2018. Let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year.
This article was first published in the Sutton Observer on 14 December 2018.