This is my final column for 2015 and I would like to wish everyone in Amber Valley a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
As Christmas fast approaches, I recently visited Royal Mail’s local delivery offices to meet the postmen and women who are working hard sorting and delivering mail in Amber Valley during the festive season. Thank you to all of the staff for hosting my visit and for the fantastic service that they provide to all of us throughout the year.
After the Christmas dinners have been eaten (with thanks to Heanor’s Matthew Walker for making 96% of the Christmas puddings on our tables), thoughts usually turn to plans and resolutions for the New Year. This is therefore the perfect time to catch up and reflect on the past year as your MP.
This year, I held two more Amber Valley Jobs Fairs to help achieve the goal of full employment we committed to in our manifesto. Once again, hundreds of people attended, and many gained jobs or apprenticeships. As a result, I welcome the latest figures which highlight that local unemployment has fallen by more than 15% over the last year, so unemployment in Amber Valley is now less than 1.7%. This is excellent news, but I remain committed to continuing to hold more Jobs Fairs and other business events in 2016, to help even more people find work and training opportunities.
There has also been success with my campaigns for work to start on some of the desperately needed infrastructure improvements in Amber Valley. This Government has recognised the importance of our local rail links by funding step free access and a new station building at Alfreton Train Station – to be installed next year – as well as restarting the electrification of the Midland Mainline. I look forward to these improvements, but I will still be campaigning next year for the branch line that passes through Alfreton and Langley Mill stations to be included so everyone in Amber Valley can take advantage of improved journey times and local job creation.
Alongside developing our transport network, housing for the area remains a crucial issue. Whilst I understand the importance of building the new houses we need, developments should be in line with local wishes, and not at the expense of our green fields. In this way, I’m disappointed by the recent withdrawal of Amber Valley Borough Council’s draft Core Strategy, which would have established a clear five-year housing plan for the area. I particularly regret the behaviour of developers, especially over the Lily Street Farm planning application, which is why I have again urged the Secretary of State to call in this decision. I will continue to push the Council to draw up a new local plan and work with local communities on their neighbourhood plans so that new homes are where you want them to be.
Early in the New Year, I’m delighted to announce I will be holding my first supermarket surgeries, starting with Tesco’s in Heanor on the 8th January 2016 from 10.30am. Please come and say hello, and let me know how I can help you in 2016!