There has been a very busy start to the year in Westminster. MPs not only passed the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the Queen's Speech but also started work on many other areas.
In the recent reshuffle, the Prime Minister has asked me to take on the role as Minister for Children and Families. I am hugely honoured and especially grateful to the many Chelmsford organisations who have told me about their work in this area over the past couple of years. There is a huge amount to learn and much to do in this very challenging area.
The NHS Funding Bill will result in a record £33.9 billion increase in funding for our health service. Funds to train more doctors, nurses and other staff will come in addition. New legal measures to strengthen sentences for the most dangerous crimes are also being introduced.
The landmark Environment Bill has been launched. This will create a step change in cleaner air and water and also introduce measures to reduce climate change emission and tackle plastic waste. The Agriculture Bill has also started its way through Parliament.
Police funding has also been increased with an additional £23.1 million coming into Essex Police this year. Last month a further 22 officers joined the ever-growing Chelmsford and Maldon policing team. Information from the public have helped lead to many arrests across Chelmsford in recent months.
School funding for the year ahead has now been agreed. This “levels up” funding across the country so that schools in areas such as Chelmsford which have traditionally not received as much as many other areas will benefit most. Secondary schools are guaranteed at least £5,000 per pupil funding, and every primary school at least £3,750 per pupil. School funding for Essex has increased by 4.86%.
In Chelmsford, I have been very concerned about the recent performance on our trains, so I called Greater Anglia into the House of Commons and arranged for MPs representing constituencies along the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) to quiz them. In order to hold monitor performance, we have asked for with monthly data on the number of delays and short-forms. I am meeting with Network Rail later this month to discuss the plans for Beaulieu Park Station.
There is good news that work to dismantle the Army and Navy flyover has now started. Essex County Council are working urgently with the Department for Transport on developing further details on the five possible long-term solutions.
In Chelmsford, we launched Essex 2020, a year of science and creativity. We will be hosting the British Science Festival this summer, the first time it’s ever happened in Essex.
Thank you to the large number of Chelmsford residents who contacted me about the Back-Inn Time restaurant. This is a very popular local venue and part of our heritage. I am supporting this important local business. The planning application for redevelopment into residential flats was rejected by the council.
As we leave the EU it is important that we continue to work with friends in other countries. I travelled to Sweden to meet with the Swedish Moderate Party. We have a strong history of working with Sweden on issues such as free trade and well-regulated markets. It was good to discuss ongoing cooperation especially in areas such as environmental policy. I continue to keep a close eye on Foreign Affairs matters including the situation regarding Iran and the spread of Coronavirus.
In Chelmsford I attended an event for Holocaust Memorial Day. This year marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It is vital that we all remember the horror that mankind is capable of unleashing when fuelled by hate. In Chelmsford we were honoured to hear the testimony Henri Obstfeld. He told his story of life as a very young child in Nazi occupied Holland and being hidden and cared for by a non-Jewish family.
Thank you to everyone who came to my Apprenticeship Fair in Chelmsford as part of National Apprenticeship Week. Apprenticeships provide an excellent way to learn new skills whilst also earning at the same time. It was so good to meet with many Chelmsford residents and people from all across Essex who came to hear about work opportunities. Thank you to Anglia Ruskin University for letting us use their stunning facilities, to Teledyne e2v and Stansted Airport for their sponsorship and to the many local businesses and organisations who took part.
As ever, please do stay in touch. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org