Happy New Year to all constituents, and I wish you all good fortune in the coming twelve months. I know some politicians are trying to start making New Year’s Messages a tradition, but I think I am a week too late to join in. Suffice to say, I hope to keep working as hard as ever on your behalf.
I am also conscious that having done quite a large postal survey in Ingthorpe and Greenlands over recent weeks, the new year will see a lot of new people now receiving this email. I hope you find it informative, not too partisan, but also an illumination of the wide spectrum of what actually occurs within the boundaries of Blackpool North & Cleveleys.
The New Year started with me pounding the streets helping to deliver our A3 response to the survey in Greenlands and Ingthorpe. It’s a useful exercise in communicating just how local my activities and efforts go. I just wish I had the resources to do them more frequently and to every ward. I do make a point of replying to every survey that gets sent back, so if you’re getting these emails but haven’t had a response yet, don’t worry as I always tailor my response to what people actually write! (I think they call it ‘listening’?) And before anyone asks, I voted in that consultation for there to be no increase in MPs’ salaries…
Voyaging down to London thrust me back into the full-on reality of Westminster life though. As a PPS to a Minister with an office in Downing Street, I seem to be wearing a groove in the path between the Commons and Downing Street that goes past the Cenotaph. The job of a PPS provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into how Government worksreally – good and bad. Civil servants often get a bad press, but the groups I come into contact through the work I’m doing on red tape and implementation, who come from all Government departments, do seem a dedicated and conscientious group. But then it’s far easier to criticise isn’t it! We need to learn to love our civil servants a bit more.
Something I tried to put into practice when we met with senior managers with responsibility for the Fylde to discuss Norcross, Peel Park and associated issues. I have tried to ensure that my priority has been to retain jobs on the Fylde, even if specific locations are being lost to DWP work. Confusion did arise over the re-re-location of some shared services personnel from Peel Park back to Tomlinson House on Norcross. However, as ‘shared services’ is being reassigned to the Cabinet Office, this doesn’t seem to open the way to a reappraisal of the wider decision to relocate DWP work to Peel Park. I also took the opportunity to once again stress the need for improved HR at Warbreck House, and the need to retain the public sector presence on the Fylde. Whilst the compulsory job losses from DWP specifically may only be 2 since the last election, I cannot be blind to the fact that headcounts are falling, and that other contractor jobs may be being shed.
Defending public sector jobs on Fylde doesn’t contradict the equally important task of increasing the level of private sector investment on the Fylde. So another stage of my A585 Crusade occurred this week as I lobbied Edwin Booth, chairman of both the eponymous supermarkets but also the Local Enterprise Partnership for Lancashire. LEPs now have a greater say on local transport investment, and I want to make sure that the A585 as the crucial artery for North Fylde is not overlooked amidst Preston’s bid for city region status. I seem to have won a right to a hearing at least – so I shall have to make sure I am silver-tongued and persuasive!
I also had a media morning – posing on Westminster Bridge with Gordon Marsden for a Marketing Blackpool brochure to try and attract conferences back (nb. Much more needs to be done to achieve than that just printing a brochure!) and also doing BBC Northwest Tonight to discuss the ‘free breakfast’ scheme just begun in Blackpool. I got a 20 second slot on the show, although they actually filmed 3 minutes of questions. As ever, they never use the clip you want them to. Tempting as it is to pronounce my views on the initiative, I would just point you to the Youtube clip here and make your mind up! I think this one has a long way to run if my inbox is anything to go by…
Friday saw a long series of meetings, so it was more of an ‘in the office’ day than a usual Friday. Hugh Evans from the local Chamber of Commerce came by to discuss how we can try to replicate the private sector’s success investing in Wyre with the problems we seem to have more in Blackpool – often summed up in a single word ‘transport’. Arif Rajpura, the public health man for Blackpool (I’m not sure of his precise title as he is wearing two hats until April), also came by and we discussed healthy eating initiatives (including better breakfasts!) as well as his views on the Government’s alcohol strategy. Finally, a local man from Thornton who is trying to break Donald Campbell’s world water speed record, paid a visit to seek some help extracting some discarded jet engines from the MoD. I’ll do my best! If nothing else, it demonstrates that remarkable things happen in Thornton sheds … We’re both hoping as the project develops that it can be a learning tool for local students, and encouraging more of them down a science and engineering path.
Finally, I had a saddening visit to a hairdressers on Holmfield Road which was burgled and robbed over Christmas and New Year. It saddens me to think we have people in our community who believe it acceptable to vandalise other people’s property. Worse than that, the small charity shop she hosts for the Air Ambulance was broken into, and a small amount of cash stolen from within a biscuit tin. I can only hope that the perpetrators never find themselves in need of the air ambulance, which I know is funded entirely from voluntary donations. Shame on them.