This summer’s unprecedented hot weather and long spells without rain have been a stark reminder of the dangers of climate change. I would particularly like to thank all those who work for our fire and rescue service for all they have done to keep people safe in these extreme circumstances.
As I prepare to return to Westminster this week, my thoughts are with the people of Pakistan and the horrendous flooding that has affected millions of people. I have been contacted by a number of Chelmsford residents who are deeply worried about family and friends in Pakistan. The UK Government has committed funding to help with emergency supplies and an appeal from the Disasters Emergency Appeal has been launched.
Food and fuel price increases are affecting many people in Chelmsford. Thank you to all local residents who have written to me about this. I know that the new Prime Minister will be announcing new plans to help tackle this, as an urgent priority. It is also important to remember that these price hikes are a result of the war in Ukraine. Putin is using food and fuel as a weapon of war across the world. I find myself reflecting, again, on how important it is that we continue to work for peace, prosperity and stability across the world. Insecurity overseas impacts our own security here in the UK.
Over the summer recess period, I have continued my work as Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. In the Horn of Africa the rains have failed for the past four growing seasons, forty eight million people are facing severe food deprivation. In Somalia alone over 380,000 children are malnourished or at risk of death. It is the largest humanitarian disaster anywhere in the world. We in the UK have been working to prioritise help for those that need it most, but also using our voice to help bring in other assistance from the World Bank. The UK has also been investing in our scientists, in research and development and working with many countries to improve food production in innovative ways and helping with logistics, diplomatic and technical support to get vital grain out of Ukraine.
Over the summer period I have also had the chance to catch up with a number of different Chelmsford organisations and issues. I greatly enjoyed meeting with children taking part in the Holiday Activities and Schools programs in Chelmsford. When I was Children’s Minister I rolled out this program across England. It gives children on free school meals, and other children who would benefit from support, access to four weeks of fun, enriching activities and healthy food during the long holiday. This helps parents with childcare too.
I also enjoyed meeting young people who had taken part in the National Citizen Service Program and supporting local businesses in tackling some of the issues they face. Thank you also to the older residents of Chelmsford whom I have also spent time with this summer, especially those at Cherry Wood Grange who shared tea and scones. They spoke to me about wanting to change the rules about wearing of face masks in the care homes. This is an issue I have raised with the Minister responsible.
I met with the Chief Crown Prosecutor for the East of England, who is based in Chelmsford, to discuss issues that are facing our legal services. I will be taking this up Ministers too.
It has been a great summer for sport. I welcomed overseas guests to the Commonwealth Games and cheered on the Lionesses. Locally, I met with representatives from Chelmsford Foodball Club to hear about their plans for the season ahead, and longer term plans and in Galleywood the football and cricket club have exciting plans to improve facilities – they will need your support to help deliver this! I have also spent much of my time this summer supporting Essex Cricket’s initiative to deliver a new diverse board. I have been overwhelmed by the huge number of extremely talented individuals who have offered their time to serve on the board.
Very locally, I met with residents of Chislett Row who are pleased that Chelmsford City Council is going to invest in a much needed update of the local playground. However, they believe that the current plan is too large, not well designed and savings could be made that would enable money to be spent on other local areas. At a time when everyone is having to tighten their belt, it is important that local councils listen and make sure they spend taxpayers money wisely.
It has been a busy summer, but next week and the weeks ahead in Westminster will be very busy. But if you do need my help or support on a local issue please do get in touch. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org