Throughout the summer I have been busy visiting various groups and organisations in Stoke-on-Trent.
It’s been a jam-packed summer in Stoke-on-Trent! Whether it's joining residents in helping clean our streets through litter picks; supporting our employers to recover and create more opportunities; or visiting the various projects throughout Stoke-on-Trent providing help and support to our residents.
I’d like to celebrate our city for getting back up and rolling up our sleeves as we emerge from the pandemic. The last 18 months have been extremely difficult for us all. However, through the true Stoke-on-Trent spirit we seem to be on our way back up and I hope we continue to see our city improve.
Residents will be aware that I have been raising the importance of getting primary care and GP services in our area back to normal. In parliament, I raised with the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care the need for more support to help these services recover. It is vital people locally can seek medical support and advice when they need it.
We must see health and social care services improve as we recover from the pandemic, with the investment we are making focused on getting waiting times at hospitals down, improving access to GP primary care and ensuring people are cared for in dignity.
Locally, we have started to see some big improvements to our primary care services. Last week representatives from Stoke-on-Trent City Council and I attended the opening of the first phase of the new Longton Primary Care Centre.
Since being elected in 2017 and during the COVID-19 Pandemic, I have been campaigning forcefully for improvements to be made with local primary care. The Longton Primary Care Centre project has been led by the Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Group in partnership with the City Council, following repeated calls for improvements to local health services from myself and the community.
The opening of this first phase is set to help reduce pressures on existing local NHS services, providing better facilities to deliver the range of healthcare services people need right in the heart of the community.
I will continue to speak with local health officials and health Ministers in Westminster to make sure Stoke-on-Trent gets the attention needed and our health services are fully restored to pre-pandemic levels. I will be focusing on delivering the next phase of the primary care centre which will create an integrated care hub in Longton which will significantly improve access to a broader range of health services at the centre of the community. I will prioritise ensuring we get as much of the increased investment being put into health and social care spent on our NHS and care services here in Stoke-on-Trent.
As part of our local recovery out of the pandemic, I have also been visiting local businesses to discuss the current drive for skills. It is fantastic to see so many local businesses in our area eager to recruit and offer more skilled opportunities to residents by increasing their workforce, especially manufacturers like Don Bur who are looking to take on 100 new staff.
There are now more vacancies in Stoke-on-Trent than before the pandemic and it is vital we help people to access these amazing opportunities. We have seen a big push from the Government to promote funding available to employers and skills providers to help boost job creation and get people into work, whether through schemes like Kickstart or the Lifetime Skills Guarantee.
Recently, I visited Acacia Training following their win for the award of ‘Apprentice Provider of the Year’. I am encouraging all local businesses and organisations to take part in the Government Kickstart Scheme, offering fully funded places for six months for those providing new opportunities for 16–24-year-olds. Employers have until the end of the year to take advantage.
I would also encourage all adults in Stoke-on-Trent who need to upskill to take advantage of the funding available from the Government. We have seen the Government open various schemes such as the National Skills Fund, Lifetime Skills Guarantee and the SWAP programme. The Lifetime Skills Guarantee particularly is available to all those without level three or above qualifications, fully funding courses to upskill and take on the opportunity to access better skilled, better paid employment. These schemes will change lives in Stoke-on-Trent, giving people a chance, helping families to improve quality of life and access the higher wage opportunities we want to see.
We have also celebrated the news of new funding for Longton’s town centre. The launch of the three-year Longton Partnership Scheme in Conservation Area (PSICA) with Historic England and the City Council, will see more than £800,000 invested to bring buildings in the town’s conservation area back to life. It is essential property owners in Longton work with the scheme to help improve the condition of the townscape and get those empty spaces back in use again.
The PSiCA Scheme, along with the town centre levelling up bids submitted to the Government last month, and our focus on securing more investment for our city, means that our local town centres can have a bright future ahead. I will continue to use my voice in Westminster to stand up for Stoke-on-Trent and keep our city firmly on the Government’s mind.
This article originally appeared in The Sentinel Newspaper on 4 October.