Welcome to my September newsletter update as your Member of Parliament for the City of Chester.
Firstly, Thank you for signing up for this newsletter and taking an interest in the work I do for our city and it’s residents. Please encourage your friends, family and colleagues to sign up to this newsletter and if you do have any feedback about how I can improve this newsletter, please email in with your suggestions.
|Monday 4th September saw Members of Parliament return to the House of Commons as the summer recess came to an end. It was certainly a busy start to September.
As you will know, August was a difficult month for our city, with Lucy Letby being found guilty on numerous charges for the terrible crimes she committed. This remains a difficult time for the families affected who remain in my thoughts. I welcome the decision by Steve Barclay MP to launch a full, independent statutory inquiry into the crimes committed at the Countess. This was something I supported the families in calling for to ensure the people of Chester get the answers they need to regain confidence in our local hospital.
As we approach winter, the cost-of-living crisis is likely to get worse. With over 20% of pensioners in poverty, I asked the Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions: “When will the Government make a real plan to tackle the cost of living crisis and implement meaningful action to help thousands of pensioners in poverty?”, the Pensions minister highlighted some of the support the Government had provided but then used this as an opportunity for a political attack about the ULEZ charges in London. Thousands of pensioners who are entitled to Pension Credit are still not receiving this benefit. I would encourage all pensioners to check their eligibility for this money to help ensure our city and its residents get the money they are entitled to.
For those of you who keep a close eye on Westminster, you will have noticed that the much-anticipated reshuffle in the Shadow Frontbench took place smoothly. This now sees Labour directly Shadow the Departmental changes initiated by Rishi Sunak earlier this year. I’m proud to join the Shadow Whips Office after serving as Rachel Reeves’ Parliamentary Private Secretary for the last six months. Working with Rachel and the Shadow Treasury team has been a great honour but I’m now looking forward to working with a range of other front bench teams in my new role as a whip. A whip in the House of Commons helps organise their party’s contribution to parliamentary business. In short, we make sure MPs from our respective parties are where they should be, at the right time. This may sound simple in practice but with the hectic business of the House, things can change at the drop of a hat.
|Over the summer I’ve been busy visiting a wide cross-section of businesses across Chester learning about the challenges and opportunities they face. From a visit to Urenco, outlining the current situation with nuclear fuel and the effects the war in Ukraine has had on their business, to The English Language Centre Chester, who have highlighted potential actions the Government could take to increase the number of students travelling to our fantastic city to learn English and further boost our soft power.
I had the pleasure of opening the second branch of the Scented Garden Retreat in the Garden Quarter. Given the daily stress we so often face it’s important to take some downtime and relax and this is certainly a great place to unwind.
Many of you will be saddened at the news surrounding the collapse of Wilko and the confirmed closure of their store in Chester. I visited the Wilko branch on Foregate Street when the news first broke to listen to the concerns of the staff. I was devastated to hear of the news about the collapse of the rescue deal and the decision to close all 400 stores in the UK. This will leave another hole in our high streets, my thoughts are with all the workers affected.
The success of our city is also linked to our transport connections to major cities. Being the home of legendary railway engineer Thomas Brassey, I continue to join with other local MPs and keep up the pressure on Avanti West Coast and the Government to provide a service that Cestrians can rely on after continued chaos and uncertainty in our train provision. Like most Chester residents who have to use Avanti, I was outraged at the Government decision to extend Avanti’s contract for up to 9 years, you can view my response to this announcement in the House of Commons on Parliament TV here.
|Chester residents continue to impress me with their support for our community. Earlier this month I joined the Duke of Westminster and others for the launch of Grosvenor Hart Homes, a new social enterprise with “a focus on improving the life chances of vulnerable children, young people and their families”. The organisation will offer high-quality affordable homes simultaneously paired with employment and wellbeing support programmes, tailored around the needs of individuals and designed to empower them to overcome disadvantage and achieve better outcomes in life. You can find out more on their website here.
We are fortunate to have some amazing charities in Chester. Over summer I visited KidsBank to deliver some books for local children. If you would like to help KidsBank or know someone who could benefit from the work KidsBank undertake, you can find out more on their website here. The Co-operative brand of supermarkets continues to support local charities and good causes through it’s member pioneer scheme, I was able to meet some of them over the summer to learn more about the good work they do in Chester.
Sport continues to enrich the lives of local residents. I had the honour of being invited to speak with the Senior Blues at Chester FC’s Leap76 Stadium. I also continue to support and am a proud owner of a season ticket for Chester FC Women. This summer saw more and more people watch Women’s Football with the Lionesses making it all the way to the World Cup Final, inspiring even more women and girls to participate in our national sport. They made us proud, and their legacy continues. I am pleased to see women’s sport become more accessible for participants and spectators alike.
|The health of our river and natural environment continues to fill up my constituency inbox. Cestrians have immense pride in our River Dee and our local Environment. I continue to champion action on ending the Sewage Scandal both locally and nationally in Parliament. I joined the Council by the River over summer as they promoted their consultation for a Clean River Dee, the consultation closed at the end of August.
As part of my work on tackling the sewage dumping in our river, I visited the Severn Trent Water Treatment Works at Boughton. Severn Trent manage the supply of water to Chester (24 million litres of water a day) with Welsh Water operating the sewage system. Severn Trent representatives demonstrated how the treatment centre works, how they are looking to reduce spillage events at combined sewage outlets in the areas they manage sewage and their plans to invest £3.6m into the Boughton Works.
This month I have participated in two flag raising events. In the city centre for Emergency Services Day, the work our emergency services undertake to keep us safe is truly commendable. I pay tribute to their commitment and their sacrifices. I also attended the flag raising at the Countess of Chester Country Park to celebrate it retaining green flag status for the sixth year in a row. The Friends of the Countess of Chester Country Park do an incredible job and I look forward to celebrating the ten year anniversary of the park this time next year.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Blacon residents and Labour Party members who attended our clean up of Blacon Cemetery over summer. The event was a roaring success. This issue was a key concern of Blacon residents who contacted my office over the summer.
There are some fantastic community groups in Blacon, I attended Bounceback Blacon following an invitation from one of the attendees at my Carer’s Coffee morning. The group is part of the wider network of Dementia Voices – DEEP. They meet twice weekly and offer an invaluable support network for local people affected by Dementia. Earlier this week I attended a meeting of the Autism Support group in Blacon following my visit to the Aspire Chester group in August. If you are involved in a community group I would like to meet you to find out how I can support you and your members as your Member of Parliament.
Following the start of the school year, I’ve had the honour to visit Eccleston Primary School and Upton-by-Chester High School. Meeting local young people is always inspiring. I look forward to visiting more of our local schools in the run-up to Parliament Week in November this year. You can find out more about Parliament Week here.
Thank you again for taking the time to read this email newsletter and for keeping up to date with my work as your Member of Parliament.