Welcome to my City of Chester October roundup, covering the work I’ve been doing as your Member of Parliament during last month. It’s been busy locally, nationally and internationally. I’ve attended numerous events here in Chester and participated in the biggest Labour Party Conference in history held in Liverpool. Internationally, I’m sure you are all aware of the grievous suffering in Israel and Gaza, with the war in Ukraine still raging and other conflicts in Sudan continuing to inflict death and destruction on innocent people around the world.
As we approach Remembrance Sunday next month, I’d like to pay tribute to the service our veterans have provided to our country. This month I joined local Veterans at their fortnightly breakfast club, to learn of the issues they are experiencing and how I can support them as the Member of Parliament.
Last week, I was pleased to attend the “Veterans and their Families Research Symposium” at the Riverside Innovation Centre herein Chester. The University of Chester’s Westminster Centre for Research in Veterans does some incredible work identifying issues faced by our veteran communities. It was great to hear about the latest research, with a focus on health issues and employment, you can find out more on their website.
At the start of the month, I had the honour of delivering the key note address at the Chester Residents’ Association Group (CRAG) meeting which was hosted by Chester Racecourse. CRAG is the collective organisation for all the residents groups here in our city. You can find out more on their website.
My speech focused on the residents of our incredible city, who continue to fill me with pride with their strong sense of community, delivering fantastic cultural events and always looking out for their fellow Cestrians. This month saw several residents have their properties flooded during storm Babet. I visited those affected to offer support, raising the issue in the House of Commons. I’ve also used my social media and Chester Standard column to highlight the Environment Agency’s flood warning service, for which you can sign up here – https://www.gov.uk/sign-up-for-flood-warnings
I’ve also been active in the House of Commons raising the issue of short-term lets, which has seen rents in our city increase as the availability of long-term private properties to let decrease. This has made the cost-of-living crisis even more severe for those in the private rented sector, as those with mortgages have seen increasing interest rates decrease their disposable income and ability to support our local economy.
On the subject of our local economy, I was angered by several announcements affecting our local rail connections. Firstly, the Government announcement of the decision to award Avanti West Coast a new contract, which has the possibility to run for 9 years. I raised my disbelief with this news in the House of Commons, questioning the Minister on Avanti’s continued disappointing service to Chester residents. This was followed a few weeks later with the announcement that Avanti would once again reduce services to Chester, North Wales and Manchester in the run-up to the festive Christmas period.
Then Government’s decision to cancel HS2 north of Birmingham is a travesty. The announcement was made to the media and not to Parliament, something the Speaker of the House of Commons rightly criticised. Major decisions should be announced to Members of Parliament who can then scrutinise these policy decisions on behalf of the residents they have been elected to represent. This is particularly important on an issue where an unelected Prime Minister is undertaking a U-Turn on a Conservative Party manifesto commitment -an issue, furthermore, where previously a political consensus exists. I do however welcome support for electrification of the North Wales-Chester-Crewe line, which is a keystone policy of GrowthTrack360 (GT360) although there is very little detail about the proposal coming from Government. At Labour Party Conference I joined a GT360 panel to raise support for investment in our regions transport infrastructure.
I’d like to end this month’s round-up by going back to the start of the month. This year, Liverpool witnessed the biggest Labour Party Conference in history, attended by more than 18,000 people making it one of the biggest conferences in Europe. I met with numerous charities and organisations to find out more about the work they do in Chester and nationally and to learn how I can help support them achieve their goals. Whether this be a reduction in those dying from cancer, heart disease, strokes etc or with increases in Biodiversity in the cases of the WWF, RSPB and National Trust stand.
In good news for Chester, Chester Zoo won the award for ‘Best Stand’ at this year’s Labour Party Conference. The work they continue to do locally, nationally and internationally continues to put our city on the map. Chester Zoo also hosted a well-attended fringe event. I was pleased to be invited to join the panel.
As your Member of Parliament, I would appreciate any thoughts you have on Labour Party Conference so I can better understand the role it plays for local people. As always I continue to welcome feedback on this newsletter, to help improve how I communicate with residents.
Thank you again for taking the time to read this newsletter.