Parliament’s February recess coming a week before Derbyshire schools’ half term created a bit of a childcare challenge in the George household, but it meant I could spend last week visiting some of the many businesses, service providers and charities who were keen to speak with me about local challenges and policy issues, as well as highlighting the great work that they do.
Thanks to Derbyshire’s gritters I managed to get to all 20 meetings around the constituency, as well as my regular surgery, (and also fit in the dentist, a parents’ evening and most of my sons’ school runs – things I can’t do when in London).
First up was a useful meeting with High Peak’s police inspector to discuss concerns from both residents and police, and my experience on a shift with High Peak officers at the weekend.
I am always impressed at the depth of creativity and caring in High Peak. On Tuesday I slid my way along icy tracks to the amazing farm where rehabilitation is given to people who suffer drug or alcohol dependency. A full programme of activities, helping with the animals and growing their own food offers the support some people need to overcome their dependency.
At Kingspan – one of Glossop’s largest employers – it was good to see their expansion plans, but also useful to discuss regulation around buildings insulation in the wake of the Grenfell fire. It was Kingspan’s cladding that would have been used on Grenfell Tower, but for a contractor seeking to cut corners with a slightly cheaper but inferior product. I am happy to work with the company to make sure the new regulations get it right – and that they are properly enforced so all our buildings are safe.
Citizens Advice at Chinley Book Swap on Wednesday morning gave very helpful advice on the best energy tariffs, plus grants and discounts that are available to many people in High Peak. With so many older houses it is useful to get as much insulation as possible to keep warm and save on heating bills.
It was an early start at Glossop Post Office on Thursday to see the mail sorted and discuss the changes and challenges for the business, with fewer letters but many more parcels. It was also a chance to say thank you to our hard-working ‘posties’ who are out in all weathers (often in shorts!) but who know our higgledy streets and rural house-names like no other delivery company.
At Glossop Business Club, crime was a key issue, with many van burglaries and vehicle crimes. I stressed the importance of reporting all crimes as it can help our police to establish a pattern of criminal activity – and for us to argue for the right number of police.
In the afternoon I was one of the 170 local residents who attended the exhibition by Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust and McCarthy & Stone about their proposals for land off Station Road in Buxton.
On Friday I enjoyed launching the ‘Bogtastic’ van with renowned local singer Bella Hardy and Edale school-children. The van will be touring both High Peak and our surrounding cities to inform people of the value and fun of our upland moorlands, and encourage more people to both visit and respect them.
In between, I have enjoyed meeting with children at schools and New Mills Brownies to answer their questions on everything from public toilets and the tampon tax to Brexit and farming.
I also met with charities Mummy’s Star and the Family Fund to find out about their excellent work; with Derbyshire Welfare Rights to discuss Universal Credit campaigning, and with local ambulance crews ahead of my debate on our Ambulance Service.
The highlight of the week had to be Bounce and Cheer in Glossop who do brilliant work with young people and youngsters with disabilities and to have a quick try of their trampoline – it can’t all be hard work as an MP!
It wasn’t exactly a week off, but I have been both impressed and humbled by the work that goes on all across High Peak. There are lots of issues I’ve been asked to take up in Parliament and this week I am heading back to London to do just that.