I always cherish the Christmas holidays, a few precious weeks when I don’t need to divide my time between Solihull and Westminster and can spend lots of quality time with friends and family.
But now Parliament is back in session and I’m looking forward to getting back to representing our town and community in Westminster, in particular on two very important local issues: our local NHS, and unauthorised traveller camps.
I have been campaigning hard to protect local health services ever since I was first selected to stand as a candidate for election here in Solihull. As many of you will know the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT), which runs Solihull Hospital as well as several other local hospitals and community services, had run up enormous debts which cast a shadow over life-saving services.
The leadership team under Dame Julie Moore, from University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) trust, have made very good progress towards getting our local NHS back on track.
I have been in close contact with the UHB leadership ever since they were first called in, and have been working hard to support their efforts down in Parliament. Just before Christmas I met with the Minister to press for progress on their merger proposals and obtain assurances about local services, and also asked Theresa May herself to support the move during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Before Christmas I also joined other West Midlands MPs to meet Alok Sharma, the Housing Minister, and impress upon him the negative impact that unauthorised traveller camps have on all our communities. Both he and some of the Labour MPs present praised Sandwell Council, which has made innovative use of injunctions to deter traveller groups – tactics I first reported in my submission to Solihull Council’s traveller review, which you can find on my website.
Personally, I impressed on the minister that I want to see trespass on public land banned outright. It’s ridiculous that the Council need to spend so much of our tax money, not to mention several days in court, before they can clear our parks and public spaces and return them to the community – and that’s before the travellers simply pitch a new camp a few miles down the road!
Unfortunately that will be very difficult to achieve in the current Parliament as too few Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs support it, but I will keep pushing for the strongest possible action to keep our green spaces safe in 2018.
Originally published in the Solihull News, 14/12/17.