The Parliamentary recess is now coming to a close and on Monday Parliament will return, with much on the agenda to get through. And with the last summer recess, in 2020, being one which I couldn’t fully utilise because of the restrictions in place at the time, this one has been jam packed.
Over the course of the summer I have held over 30 drop-in surgeries, speaking to hundreds of residents in the process. To me this is what being an MP is all about. It’s getting out there, speaking to people, hearing views and opinions – good and bad, those who agree and those who disagree, those who need help and those who don’t.
I also used the time to see some of our local businesses, to see what they do and how they do it and, importantly, what challenges there were which I could take down to Westminster to try to help address. Because those businesses – like Fagan & Whalley, Veka, Rectella, BMP SFX, LP Technology and so many more – are the businesses that employ local people and contribute to our area.
Our community is more than that though, we also have some inspiring people who work tirelessly to make our area the best place to live. The Friends of Ightenhill Park are an example to other ‘Friends of’ groups on what can be achieved; the Rossendale Valley Sailing Club (based at Clowbridge Reservoir in Burnley) teaches children and adults how to sail; the Empire Theatre Trust is working to restore one of Burnley’s landmarks; and we have so many organisations that have delivered the Department for Education’s Holiday Activities & Food Programme. This scheme provides food and activity for children throughout the summer holidays, and it has been wonderful to see the impact that’s had. One of my biggest takeaways from this summer to Government is that we must continue this scheme.
And I have also spent some time with our public services, in order to get a better understanding of what they do and how they do it. From foot patrols with the PCSO team, to spending a few hours at Burnley Fire Station. It has been evident from this that the role they perform is far more varied than many will ever know, but that we are in safe hands should we need them.
Some residents will also now have received my latest update, which I’ve been delivering across the borough. For those who have not received it yet, rest assured a copy is coming to you. Because much like getting out and speaking to people is a core part of the role for me, so is keeping residents updated. This latest one contains everything from where we are with the Levelling-Up Fund bid, to improving our education system.
Finally, this summer I have also launched the Burnley & Padiham Imagination Library. Books not only have an amazing ability to stimulate a child’s imagination, but the evidence also tells us that reading ability is one of the biggest contributors to improving life chances. That’s why I launched this scheme – to support those children who might otherwise not be reading at home. Those children who are signed-up will receive a free book every month, which is appropriate to their age, until they turn 5 – at which point they will be in school and have access to all of the books they have.
With the scheme funded entirely by donations, and the cost per child per year being roughly £25, I have worked with 5 nurseries from across the borough to identify the children who would benefit the most. More than 70 are already enrolled and I hope over time that this can be expanded to even more nurseries and children.
I’d love to hear from any local business that would like to join sponsorship of the scheme.