Last week’s Courier reported the details of my shift with Halifax police, which was certainly an eye-opening experience
As an MP, I already work closely with neighbourhood policing teams who do some invaluable work addressing the underlying causes of crime, tackling anti-social behaviour, and really engaging with communities.
I spent part of the shift in Ovenden with PC Kim McCloskey meeting staff and young people at the Ovenden Mixenden initiative as well as players from the Ovenden Phoenix football club to see the great partnership work going on in youth engagement there.
However I was also keen to spend time with officers responding to 999 calls to see just how West Yorkshire Police are coping with cuts of £160 million over five years, and the loss of 1,200 police officers.
Whilst I met incredibly hardworking and dedicated officers, I was shocked to see just how wafer thin the blue line really is.
Officers are regularly asked to respond to emergency calls on their own and I witnessed for myself just how vulnerable officers are, having called 999 for back-up myself when the officer I was with suddenly found himself surrounded.
In the last 12 months, there have been 991 reported assaults on officers in West Yorkshire. If the police are not safe then the public are not safe and I am joining with the Police Federation in calling on the Government to restore policing to safe levels.
Businesses at risk without urgent action on flood insurance
Readers of last week’s Courier will have seen that I have written to the new Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom to ask her to meet with me and local business’s to urgently discuss insurance for those companies affected by the Boxing Day floods.
We have come such a long way from the aftermath of the floods but there is still more to do. It was an honour to recently attend the official reopening of Pulman Steel who are now trading again at full strength after overcoming the devastation of the floods.
Yet Pulmans, like many other large businesses were extremely frustrated that 10 insurance companies had turned them down after they tried to renew their policy. This two-centuries-old business has always paid its premiums and has only flooded once in its history.
It is clear that the insurance market isn’t working and that any future flooding could leave local firms like Pulman Steel with huge losses which they cannot cover.
I worry for the future of firms in the bottom of the valleys, and the hundreds of jobs they provide, if the Government do not take urgent action on this issue. I will be seeking to meet with the new Secretary of State and work with my colleagues in other flood affected areas to put this right.
Halifax charities doing some great work
Now that Parliament is in recess for the summer, it’s great to spend more time in Halifax and catch-up with the local charities and organisations who are doing some really good work for our town. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the the Skillshop at their centre near Illingworth.
The Skillshop provides specialised training for adults with learning difficulties a in a caring environment, aiming to improve people’s self-esteem, confidence and personal development.
I took part in a question and answer session, where both staff and service users gave me a ‘light grilling’ about the challenges of being an MP, as well as the latest political issues including Europe and how best to protect funding for this kind of invaluable service. I want to thank all those involved with projects and charities like the Skillshop.
Community pharmacies must stay
You may already be aware that I have been campaigning against proposed Government cuts of around £170 million to the community pharmacy budget which could see between 1,000 and 3,000 chemist shops close across the country.
Here in Halifax the consultation on proposed hospital changes has been completed and the results are being analysed. NHS chiefs are looking to take pressure off our hospitals by strengthening primary care services, meaning a greater role for GPs and pharmacists, and so it is particularly important that we defend those services.
recently convened a meeting between local pharmacists and the Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group to open up dialogue about how pharmacy services may be enhanced.
I have set up a steering group of Halifax pharmacists to fight these cuts and ensure that community pharmacies are at the heart of any changes.