Monday, 29 July It’s a long way away but I go over to Brecon and Radnorshire in mid Wales to help with the by-election. I have always found it interesting to help in by-elections as it gives a close feeling of public mood. It is clearly going to be a close race.
Tuesday, 30 July In Great Baddow in the streets off Gilmore Way helping to deliver my Annual Report. This is a lovely quiet part of Chelmsford but many of the pavements are in a very bad state of disrepair. I know some residents have had serious injuries due to trips and falls. I reported this a couple of months ago and have now reported this again.
Wednesday, 31 July I’ve been campaigning for additional police in Chelmsford since my first day as Member of Parliament, so it’s good to be out on patrol with the new Chelmsford Town Centre Team and the Police Commissioner for Essex, Roger Hirst. Our team has four dedicated Constables and one Sergeant. They will work closely with teams covering Maldon and South Woodham Ferrers as well as the City Council safer community officers. This is in addition to the local response police teams across the area. We walk through the High Street, Moulsham Street and back up to the station. Many local residents stop to talk. We hear concerns about the increase in the number of people begging and rough sleeping over the past couple of months. I’m told that people may be coming to Chelmsford from other parts of the country. An outreach case worker tells me that in many cases begging is linked to drug taking. This is very worrying as we also know that county lines drugs gangs can be extremely violent. Please do think twice before giving money to people on the streets and consider giving instead to one of the many charities helping the homeless locally.
Thursday, 01 August Up early to meet with members of the Army and Navy Taskforce. I am extremely concerned that the flyover has had to be shut indefinitely. This will add to congestion in Chelmsford. It is imperative that we urgently find a long-term solution for the junction. The Taskforce has already done really good work to shortlist new potential designs for the entire junction: they have consulted stakeholders and sent the engineers off to prepare their detailed plans, but it is clear that this work must be accelerated.
Last week, following the most recent closure, I contacted the new Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP. He has agreed that work must happen urgently and told his officials to help. A funding bid may now be prepared in parallel with drawing up plans for engineering works. This is extremely good news as it means that a long-term solution will be prepared in the fastest possible time scale.
In the meantime, Essex County Council are also looking at a wide range of measures to reduce congestion. The engineers are working out if it will be possible to do another interim repair so drivers could continue to use it over the coming winter. Safety must come first though.
I go to Broomfield to catch up with the excellent staff at the hospital, especially the team at the A&E emergency village. I fought to keep our A&E at Broomfield and it is very good to see the extra resources and financing that are going into the front line. I’m told that many new nurse recruits are joining the hospital staff, including a large group from India. There is great excitement that the plans to increase specialist services across Broomfield, Basildon and Southend hospitals are now moving ahead. I’m particularly pleased to meet some of those who have trained as nurses via the apprenticeship route or as nurse associate. This has enabled many more local staff to become qualified in nursing careers. It is very good to have time to sit down properly and hear how the hospital is doing. Whilst the hospital is actually located just outside my parliamentary constituency it is really important for all Chelmsford residents.
I spend the evening with a team of volunteers in Beehive Lane. We are delivering an update letter to residents about the situation at the Army and Navy. People are concerned and it is good to be able to keep them updated. The letter is on my Facebook page so please do take a look and share it with others who may be interested.
Friday, 02 August Very, very, very busy constituency surgery. There is always a huge range of different issues and it’s good to try to help people with problems. I spend the afternoon drafting emails and letters as I want to try to be on top of all case work before taking some annual leave with the family. We also launch a summer survey. I know it’s going to be very tense times in politics when Westminster returns so it will be very helpful to hear people’s views on local and national issues. The survey is on my Facebook page, please do fill it in if you can.
Saturday, 03 August Wonderful morning messing about on the river. I’ve been invited by Chelmsford Canoe Club to join them for a taster session. What a wonderful treat. I’ve always enjoyed being close to a river and it is so good to see the Chelmer being well looked after and much loved. The coach, John, and his experienced kayakers are extremely patient and helpful, even when I lose my balance and have an unplanned swim. I’m very impressed by the club and learn that a number of the members are competing at international level.
After a quick shower to remove the river water I join volunteers in the City Centre, we give update letters about the Army and Navy to many Chelmsford residents. It’s very good to talk.
The Chief Whip calls. He asks if I will take on the role as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for the Department of International Development. DFID provides vital assistance across the world tackling diseases like Ebola, helping when disasters strike, reducing poverty, improving education as well as fighting climate change and plastic pollution. The budget can be controversial, but the work is building a safer, healthier, more prosperous world for people in developing countries and in the UK too. I accept the job and am looking forward to helping.
I am going to be away for the next two weeks, spending time with my mum and taking a break with my family. I’ll be back before the Westminster term starts again and am looking forward to catching up with local groups then so please do stay in touch.