As a new Member in the House of Commons, my first opportunity to speak came with my maiden speech. It was a chance to pay tribute to my predecessor Sir Richard and to follow the tradition of sharing with other MPs in the Chamber a few facts about the wonderful and unique communities that make up the Aldridge-Brownhills constituency.
There is much to learn in this place, from procedures to policies, and of course the sound of the division bell – the signal it’s time to vote! I’ve been asking questions of Ministers about healthcare and education and following the debates that affect us here locally as well as nationally.
Indeed, during this Parliament we will be debating some far-reaching constitutional matters including Scotland and the forthcoming EU referendum as well as plans for regional devolution.
We hear much about plans for a “Northern Powerhouse” and much closer to home I am pleased that discussions for a new West Midlands-wide combined authority have begun to take shape. Local councils are playing an active role, as indeed they should, and a combined authority will be a catalyst for greater powers and responsibility, investment and economic growth. I believe we can benefit from this and if the North is the “Powerhouse” then we in the Midlands are the “Engine Room”, driving growth and jobs locally.
Localism is quite rightly about devolving power downwards from Whitehall. It’s important therefore that discussions recognise the geography and diversity of this region and that we do not see our voice drowned out by that of larger, and louder, neighbouring authorities.
Of course there are still questions to be asked and to be answered especially around “Metro Mayors” and I look forward to hearing these and Aldridge-Brownhills being part of that discussion.
In the meantime, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics bring the welcome news that employment is up locally, and it was good to read in our local press that RMD Kwikform in Aldridge has been shortlisted in the 2015 Construction News Awards, a further sign of the potential we have right here on our doorstep to power the Midlands “Engine Room.”
A version of this article was originally published in the Walsall Advertiser and Sutton Coldfield Observer on June 25.