I want to wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year. I want to thank the extremely talented pupils at St Peter and St Paul CE Primary School for their fantastic entries in my local Christmas Card competition, including Oliver whose card (pictured above) won the competition!
It is December, meaning it has been two years to the month since I was elected as MP. It has been the honour of my life to represent our hometown, and I have taken time to reflect on the work done in the below progress reports. Please do take a look if you have the time.
I hope that you will be able to enjoy a fantastic Christmas with your friends and family this year.
The new vaccination centre at The Foundry is now officially open and taking walk-ins. It's great to have a walk-in vaccination centre in our town centre, and I was pleased to be able to pop in for a visit earlier this week.
I can report that the vaccination centre at The Foundry is well organised and attended by our brilliant local NHS Team. The centre is open between 9am and 5pm Tuesdays to Saturdays. You can also pick up a pack of lateral flow tests here.
It's now more important than ever to get Boosted and I hope that this will allow more residents to come forward to take their vaccinations.
I also want to remind residents that there will be some slight adjustments to our bin and box collection dates for the duration of the festive period. The changes are pictured below for the week commencing the 27th December.
Please find below reports on key local issues:
- Protecting and promoting our world-class British Steel
- Improving our local health offering, upgrading Scunthorpe Hospital
- Improving Our Local Roads
- Supporting our local businesses, community groups, and building up our high street
- Working with our schools
- Useful information and links for residents
Protecting and promoting our world-class British steel
What is being done?
The steelworks continues to be the beating heart of Scunthorpe, and it has been my priority over the past two years to protect steel jobs and infrastructure within our area.
Earlier in the Summer, I worked with colleagues on a campaign to prevent the UK from being flooded with cheap steel imports. We were able to secure the Trade Secretary and Prime Minister's support to get this legislative change- an enormous victory for our steelworks.
I have also been building the case for our steelmakers to be able to compete on a fair footing. Countries around the world have provided support to their steelworks in various forms, and I believe we should be doing the same.
I have met with both the Prime Minister and the Trade Secretary to raise these points over the past year. This includes making my case in Prime Minister's Questions at the end of November, just after giving a speech on what more I think needs to be done in Westminster Hall, which you can view here.
To keep up the campaign, I have set up a 'Steel Caucus' of Conservative MPs in Parliament to champion our steelmakers, as well as co-chairing the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Steel.
I'm very pleased to say that our new Trade Secretary is a champion of Steel and has done some fantastic work for Steel since taking on her brief. More needs to be done to ensure that our steelworks can fight on a fair footing with our European competitors and I continue to devote my time to make the case for that.
Improving our local health offering, upgrading Scunthorpe Hospital
What is being done?
As MP, it was my election promise to improve our local health offering here in Scunthorpe and surrounding villages. In the initial stages, I worked closely with our local health team to improve PPE procurement and to push the government to back our Hospital with whatever resources we needed, including securing additional vaccine doses for our area when it was first approved.
For our local NHS, it is great to see that our new £30 million A&E Unit is finally underway this year. Alongside the just-built decked car park, the A&E will be fitted with an Acute Assessment Unit and more space to deal with patients.
Whilst I am pleased that these improvements are being put in place, my long term goal for our area is to secure a new Hospital that will meet the needs of our population growth. I meet regularly with our local health team and have been involved with shaping this bid, in addition to raising this issue in Parliament since. I have also secured the support of neighbouring MPs for this project, and I will continue to work with stakeholders and residents to push forward this campaign.
You may have seen the Candy Cane Express making its way along Scunthorpe High Street last weekend. The train had been giving rides (and free candy canes) to shopping families to raise money for Lindsey Lodge, and I am delighted to say that £400 was successfully raised. It was a pleasure to present this money to Lindsey Lodge Hospice earlier this week, where I had another chance to thank them for the incredible work they do.
I will continue to work with our local health team and the government to push for a new hospital for Scunthorpe in the long term. Meanwhile, I will continue to work with residents to raise issues of concerns, such as GP appointment availability to improve local health outcomes.
Improving our local roads
What is being done?
Since I was elected, Scunthorpe has seen roadwork improvements, solutions to congestion problems and better pedestrian access to the town centre. I continue to raise case-specific concerns about road safety, so if you know of any particular roads that need work, please do get in touch.
As you may know, I spent the summer campaigning to keep our Theory Test Centre in Scunthorpe. Having met the Transport Minister Baroness Vere last month, I received a follow-up letter shortly after which you can view here. I want to reassure residents that I will continue to follow the contract process and request for changes to be made at the earliest opportunity. Meanwhile, I am pleased to see that we have secured extra places in theory test centres in the surrounding areas.
I believe that more still needs to be done to improve the safety of the A15, specifically the stretch south of Junction 4 of the M180 towards Lincoln. I have raised this with the Transport Secretary, who requested a report on potential proposals last year which I passed over. I also wrote to the Minister for Roads last month to further make the case for dualling the A15, ahead of the Road Investment Strategy 2025-30. National Highways are holding an ongoing consultation on major roads in the UK ahead of the Strategy, so please do have your say here before December 31st.
As a fellow road user, I know the impact of road quality on daily commutes. I will continue to work with Ministers and colleagues to improve our local roads for better journey times and investment attractiveness.
Supporting our local businesses, community groups, and building up our High Street
What is being done?
Since the pandemic began, I have written fifty-five "Business Updates" to businesses in our area. Whether it has been breaking down government announcements, highlighting funding opportunities or requesting local businesses' views on a wide range of issues, I am pleased that many local businesses have benefitted from the information provided. If you haven't signed up already, you can do so here. And you can read my latest Update here.
Over the past two years, Scunthorpe has successfully secured, in addition to many other smaller funding pots: £20.9 million from the government's Towns Fund, £10.7 million High Streets Fund money and access to a new Humber Freeport.
This is in addition to the national funds which North Lincolnshire Council have received to support, among other things, pandemic recovery, care homes, active transport, school holiday activity programmes, start-ups and roads in our area. In many cases, North Lincolnshire Council has successfully put bids forward to acquire funding, and I have always been on hand to support local proposals by writing to Ministers, meeting decision-makers, and supporting local bids in Parliament.
Thanks to the Town Funds money, North Lincolnshire Council have completed the acquisition of a 65-acre site at the edge of Scunthorpe for a new Advanced Manufacturing Park. The project aims to create high-skilled jobs, and its location gives our residents prime opportunity to take advantage of this investment. I look forward to seeing how these plans develop!
It was incredibly fun to visit Scunthorpe Indoor Bowls Club recently. Thanks to North Lincs Council’s £100k investment, the club is replacing their carpet and installing a new LED lighting system including diffusers. It was lovely to have a chance to meet members of the club including Ray who was kind enough to give me a lesson. Bowls is an incredibly popular sport and I can see why!
I regularly speak to local businesses, and I recognise that they continue to be hit by Covid disruption across multiple sectors. Having strongly raised concerns about lack of business support, I am pleased that the Chancellor committed to providing £1 billion for the hospitality sector this week. As the situation changes, I will keep emphasising the importance of support where businesses are being affected.
Working with our Schools
What is being done?
The past two years have not been easy for schoolchildren and staff in our area. Having worked with parents and teachers throughout the pandemic, I know that we need to do all we can in the next few years to support our local pupils.
One of my most notable memories from the past two years was being able to help a young athlete from Scunthorpe get a place in Loughborough University, after an administrative error in the 2020 A-Level exam series had downgraded her. Having raised this with the Education Secretary and Universities Minister, Loughborough recognised the mistake and accepted her application, allowing her to go to university and realise her aspirations.
On top of this, you may remember that I voted for Free School Meals in Autumn 2020. I am pleased that the government have since embraced this provision, providing an extra £200 million for school holiday activities and food for this academic year in the recent Budget. Even now, this policy continues to benefit our area.
Schools in our area have benefitted from the School Rebuilding Programme, free laptops during the pandemic, and real-terms increases in per-pupil funding (5% increase nationally for next year, and an extra 13% for children with Special Educational Needs). I continue to raise the views of schools with government, most recently on issues like BTECs and post-education job opportunities for neurodiverse people.
Since schools returned in September, it has been a delight to visit many of them during the school day, and to see just how well our pupils are doing. Indeed, I really enjoyed inviting Engineering UTC to be the first school in the UK to tour Parliament since the pandemic started, as you can read about in my Autumn update.
John Leggott College was one of the 39 post-16 providers to receive a share of £83 million as part of the Government's Post-16 Capacity Fund, allowing the College to expand and increase the number of places available 16-19 learners in our area.
Just this month, I was able to visit Holme Valley School in Bottesford to celebrate North Lincolnshire's Imagination Library Scheme, which has now provided over 740,000 free books to those up to the age of 5. It's wonderful that 9 out of 10 children in North Lincolnshire are registered with the programme, and I was delighted to hear about how much the kids enjoy receiving their books every month.
In Parliament, I have put my support behind a Bill that will improve dyslexia screening of Primary School children. It's really shocking that 80% of dyslexic children leave school with their dyslexia undiagnosed, and this leaves many pupils facing unfair disadvantages. This is a subject close to my heart and having raised the catch-up needs of students with dyslexia during the pandemic, I know that extra resources are needed. There is cross-party support for this Bill and I hope the proposed changes, if passed, will allow people living with dyslexia to further unlock their potential.
I will keep championing the views and needs of our local schools, and improving the local education offer wherever possible. It will also be exciting to look out for the opening of the new Special Needs School on West Common Lane, which will provide bespoke support for young people with disabilities.
Useful information and links for residents:
- Latest Business Update
- Alcohol Duty Consultation
- Letter from Justice Secretary as 'Harper's Law' brought in to extend sentencing for manslaughter of emergency workers
As ever, if you need anything else, please do back get in touch with me and I will get back to you when I can.
Once again, happy Christmas and I wish you a happy and safe New Year.