Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards updates constituents and looks back on 2022.
I have always loved Christmas and have many happy memories of chaotic and happy family affairs.
But I also love that period of quiet between Christmas and New Year. Once the front door closes on the last of your relatives, the Monopoly championships (or Cluedo in our house) have been fought and won and you no longer have to hunt for that present you bought your mum six months ago, feeling really organised and then put in a ‘safe place’ – where was that safe place?!
It is a chance to reflect on the year that has gone, the year to come and what we want to achieve with it. I have long given up on punishing New Year’s resolutions and shudder at the thought of ‘Dry January’, but I’ve always set myself the goal of learning or taking up something new every year.
In previous years it’s been growing my own flowers, and my cut flower patch is a source of much joy, this year it’s hiking, with the goal to complete some of the well-known Lake District hiking challenges when we visit family there in the summer, wish me luck!
Parliament returns next week, also facing many challenges.
The Prime Minister outlined these in his speech earlier this week and set out the Government’s focus for the year ahead: halving inflation; growing the economy; reducing our national debt, so that we can secure the future of public services; cutting NHS waiting lists and addressing the huge problems we currently have in A&E; legislating to stop small boats and illegal migration so our asylum system is able to support those with a genuine asylum claim.
These are all easy to set out but much harder to deliver, but I believe we can deliver them.
The Government took difficult and unpopular decisions in the Autumn Statement to help reduce inflation.
Last month we saw it start to fall, albeit only slightly, and I believe that by continuing to do what is right and continuing to work with the Bank of England we can bring inflation down and help to address the huge price rises which have affected us all.
In the meantime, the Government has provided £26bn since the Autumn to help households with the increase in the cost of living. Cost of Living payments to the most vulnerable households will continue in the spring with additional support for pensioners and those on disability benefits.
These payments will be made automatically, there is no need to apply, so please be aware that any text messages or emails asking for your bank details are most likely to be scams. If you or anyone you know have any issues receiving these payments, please do contact me so we can help.
We all know the pressures our health service, and particularly hospitals, are under. As the Prime Minister set out in his speech, we have increased capacity in hospitals with 7,000 more beds and are providing £500m to help discharge people who are medically fit to leave hospital but need social care in the community.
The Prime Minister also told us that ‘the NHS is working urgently on further plans for A&E and ambulances.’ In parliament next week, I will be asking ministers how the money to speed up hospital discharges is being spent, what more can be done to scale up convalescent facilities for those who no longer need hospital treatment and what is being done to ramp up recruitment in the social care sector.
I know from speaking to constituents who are patients and medics that this is one of the most urgent and immediate issues we need to resolve.
I was delighted to hear about the Prime Minister’s focus on innovation and education.
As he said, ‘over the last 50 years, innovation was responsible for around half of the UK’s productivity increase.
It creates new jobs, increases wages and reduces the cost of goods and services. The UK is investing £20bn of public money in R&D, but we also need to incentivise far higher private sector investment. His commitment to making numeracy a central pillar of our education system, and to have all children studying some form of maths up to the age of 18, has been controversial in some quarters, but I think it would be remiss and irresponsible for us not to prepare children for the economy in which they will be working in the future.
I know many brilliant schools in Rushcliffe are developing creative ways to engage pupils in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, Jesse Gray primary school in West Bridgford, for example, has been inviting inspiring speakers in all sorts of STEM careers in to give talks and has just opened its new STEM lab.
Last year, to celebrate British Science Week, I worked with Jesse Gray, West Bridgford School and local STEM pioneer Vanessa Danielson, to launch a catalogue of Nottinghamshire-based STEM stars, who are happy to come and to talk to schools about their career. If you would like to feature in the book or to get a copy for your school, please do let me know.
Finally, I agree strongly with the Prime Minister’s words that ‘strong communities are also built on values, on the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated yourself’.
In Rushcliffe, we reap the benefits of the time, hard work and love that many, many people put into their local communities.
It is right that we treasure and protect this and don’t let the actions of a tiny minority spoil our communities.
Last year, in response to my Crime Survey, many people flagged the issue of anti-social behaviour as something they were concerned about.
I was pleased to hear cracking down on anti-social behaviour was one of the focuses of the PM’s speech and to learn that the Government’s target to recruit 20,000 new police officers is on track to be delivered by this spring.
In Nottinghamshire, we have hundreds more police officers than we did three years ago, it is great to see the increase in neighbourhood policing that this has enabled, with both Ruddington and Keyworth getting new beat officers this year.
Whatever new year’s challenges you are setting yourself this year I wish everyone in Rushcliffe a very happy 2023. I hope the year brings you joy and fulfilment.
Ruth Edwards MP
Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster