It was a pleasure last week to see so many people out in the sun in Queen’s Park for the Armed Forces Day celebration. If you were not there, I have to say you missed out. What a fantastic way to spend an afternoon; thanking those who protect us day in and day out, and enjoying an event run entirely by and for the community. Congratulations and thanks must go to the Queen’s Park Partnership and everyone else who contributed to the success of the day.
Improving our communities, rather than just keeping things ticking over, is the sign of a thriving city. Critics and pessimists love to pour cold water over the idea that we are ‘on the up’, but just in the past week there has been so much to see around the local area that proves it. Just look at the teams making our towns more beautiful; as the Britain in Bloom judging season comes around, let’s wish Blurton in Bloom and Bloomin’ Longton good luck.
The difference here – leading change, not just managing the status quo – is really key, especially for Stoke-on-Trent. We have not had the luck, or the investment, of other areas over the years, and, without sounding too clichéd, we should be using the challenges we face as opportunities to make something better.
I have been using this idea as inspiration in my Parliamentary work recently. Firstly, take our high streets. They need support and investment, which is why I asked the Prime Minister last week to commit more investment across the towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent. We do not just need money, though; we need to shout about the great independent shops, cafes and market stalls we have. I want to do everything I can to support them and that’s why, next week, I am launching my High Street Awards in Fenton, Longton, and Meir.
Secondly, look at our transport system. I have written here before, extensively, about how we need better services on the North Staffordshire rail line from Crewe to Derby, which calls at Stoke and Longton. I am delighted this has resulted in proposals being brought forward to add more services in evenings and weekends, extend most services to Nottingham and add more carriages to address overcrowding. But why should it only serve those two places? Meir should also have a station too, and this week I launched a petition to the House of Commons to reopen Meir station. This would make it easier for people to get around locally and access job opportunities. I need as many people as possible to sing my petition to show the support locally to reopen the station. Please contact my office or go to my website to print petition sheets.
Finally, try to remember what our schools were like just a few years ago. Many were not serving our young people well and were performing well below national averages. Thanks to the hard work of our teachers and pupils locally, we have seen vast improvements in standards. New leadership in our schools and reforms, have meant our schools are now giving pupils the best chances of succeeding in life.
Too many families in our city have never had good opportunities, though, and it can be difficult for some of these young people to realise just how much they can achieve in life. To help, in the autumn I will be hosting hundreds of pupils from the high schools across the south of the city at an Opportunities Fayre, with high-tech, dynamic local businesses demonstrating practically just what a prosperous career our children could have ahead of them. All our children across Stoke-on-Trent should be able to reach their full potential and aspire to be their best. Afterall it is our people who are our greatest asset and we need to ensure they are equipped with the skills they need and desire to succeed.
This summer, I will be visiting numerous groups, organisations and businesses across Stoke-on-Trent South to see the fantastic work being done locally and help where I can. Let’s celebrate what our communities are achieving and be optimistic about seeing even more success and positive change over the coming months.
This article appeared originally in The Sentinel, 8th July 2019.