Over Easter I have been able to spend more time back at home in Stoke-on-Trent meeting residents, local organisations and businesses.
This has been a busy one not just for me, but for Stoke-in-Trent in general. We have had visits from Ministers and numerous investment announcements. I wanted to tell you about some of the things I’ve been doing over the last two weeks.
I had the opportunity to visit Staffordshire Police HQ and their contact centre. This was a great chance to speak with the police and staff as well as looking at how calls are triaged and dealt with. It was also a great opportunity to raise residents’ concerns directly with the police and get feedback from them which I can take to Westminster.
One of my key priorities in Stoke-on-Trent is to tackle crime and ensure everyone feels safe in our communities. I know the Government understands police demand is changing and becoming increasingly complex, that is why we are committed to increasing police numbers, with an extra £540 million being invested by 2024-25 to complete recruitment of new officers.
Residents will be well aware of my ambition to level up Stoke-on-Trent and ensure local people in our city have the best possible opportunities. I am repeatedly blown away by the amazing skills and talent of our people. A fantastic example of this is James at Seed Chocolate and I want to say a special thank you to for showing me the work he is doing and letting me taste the finest possible award-winning chocolate he is producing from his home. This is a fantastic local success story. He started the company from his house in Stoke-on-Trent and to this day he still produces world-class chocolate products from there.
Alongside the leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Cllr Abi Brown, I was also delighted to welcome the Minister for Children and Families, Will Quince MP, to look at the work being done by The Hubb Foundation and see Easter activity sessions organised for young people at Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy. It was fantastic to see the young people enjoying themselves trying out baking, sport and debating. Thank you to everyone who has helped in organising sessions for young people across the city over Easter.
I also want to thank 1882 Ltd who are ceramics company based at the Wedgwood factory for allowing me to visit. I very much enjoyed meeting some of the highly skilled workers and seeing the incredibly creative ceramic products they are making.
In the last couple of weeks, the Government have made a number of significant announcements which Stoke-on-Trent is set to benefit from. It is particularly welcomed news that Stoke-on-Trent has been successfully picked as one of the 75 areas to receive funding from the £301.75 million Family Hubs and Start for Life programme. This will help ensure families are properly supported and our youngest residents get the best possible start in life.
This follows Stoke-on-Trent being announced as a Prioritised Education Investment Area, meaning our local education will receive a share of £40 million in extra support over three years. This will help ensure our schools in Stoke-on-Trent have the support they need to continue to improve and ensure every child in our city gets the best opportunities to achieve their full potential.
We have also seen our bid for funding from the Bus Back Better Strategy gain Government backing. Together the three Stoke-on-Trent MPs and the City Council have been constantly lobbying Government Ministers for funding to improve Stoke-on-Trent’s poor bus network.
People regularly raise with me the challenges they face in getting around which is a massive barrier for people accessing work and skills opportunities, or just being able to get into town. That is why I am delighted our city is set to receive £31.7 million of new Government funding in a major boost for our bus services. This will mean passengers across our city will get a better deal, including cheaper fares and a better local transport network they can truly rely on.
In the most recent announcement Stoke-on-Trent is also set to benefit from £11 million funding through the Shared Prosperity Fund. Together with the wider actions we are taking, this will help ensure we continue to level up Stoke-on-Trent for everyone living in our great city.
We have seen huge generosity and eagerness from people across our city to help those affected by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. I was particularly moved by the recent Songs for Ukraine concert at Stoke Minister organised by The Staffordshire Choirs Association, all the singers and musicians were just incredible. They raised an amazing £7,200 for the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Appeal, huge thanks to them all and especially to Acacia Training who matched the donations raised on the night.
Finally, I would like to wish you all a very happy Easter. Easter is the oldest Christian tradition that sees us celebrate the resurrection of Christ. This Easter also sees the retirement of local vicar John Alessi at St Paul’s, after 40 years serving the Blurton community I want to thank him for all he has done and wish him well for the future. This is a moment for us all to start a fresh and appreciate all the good around us. The world can, and especially now, seem like a dark place, however, Stoke-on-Trent has shown there is much to be hopeful for.