Dehenna's Diary: Looking forward to a busy 12 months after a challenging year
WELL, despite it feeling impossible at times, we made it through the madness of 2020 and can put the year behind us.
However, as we move into 2021, we can’t deny that some of the challenges have carried over – mainly that Covid-19 numbers are climbing, meaning restrictions continue to be in place.
But no longer are we battling an invisible enemy whilst unarmed.
Thanks to teams of excellent scientists, in the UK we now have two vaccines approved and have already vaccinated more people than the rest of Europe combined.
The vaccine is the best weapon in our armoury, and is the light at the end of the long Covid tunnel that will allow us to start to return to normality in the coming months.
While 2020 will be remembered as the year of Covid, I don’t want the same fat to befall 2021.
So I’m sitting here looking ahead to what I hope this year will bring, and on what I hope to achieve based on the issues I campaigned on in the General Election.
We had great news on Boxing Day that Bishop Auckland will receive £19.9 million through the Future High Street Fund. 2021 will see those works begin to revitalise Bishop Auckland’s high street.
But there’s more. At the end of January, the Stronger Town Board, on which I sit, will be submitting our bid for further funding (in the tens of millions) for broader regeneration works in Bishop Auckland and the surrounding areas.
I hope 2021 will bring news of a successful second bid, and that we start to see shovels in the ground and tangible signs of progress.
But don’t think I’ve forgotten our other towns and villages – I’ve already been talking to ministers about making sure future funding pots are available, so watch this space.
I campaigned on better digital connectivity, and have been working hard on this over the past few months.
I’ve chaired discussions with major industry players and the region’s MPs; I’ve sat down with ministers to pitch policy ideas and even brought this up with the Prime Minister at a Zoom meeting of the Northern Research Group.
As we move into 2021, I am working with a small group of colleagues to push for major national policy changes to our broadband and 4G rollouts, and hope to see these implemented so we can start achieving better connectivity right across the dale.
I also campaigned on the Bishop Auckland A&E.
2020 was a very tough year for our NHS, and my thanks go out to all our NHS workers for all they have done and continue to do.
The NHS priority has rightly been on tackling Covid, so it hasn’t felt appropriate in the difficult circumstances to take up the time of busy healthcare stakeholders to discuss our A&E.
However, what this past year has proven is how vital an asset Bishop Auckland Hospital is for local healthcare provision.
I am in touch with the health secretary and we are due a meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the A&E in more detail, so I hope, in 2021, to be able to update you on this with some signs of progress.
And I campaigned on transport, particularly the Toft Hill bypass.
In 2020, I had a number of discussions with the transport secretary about this, and the signs are very positive.
Next week, I have a meeting with Durham County Council to discuss the bypass and plot a path forward. My goal for 2021 is to see the hard hats in situ by the end of the year.
I also have a meeting lined up about the Whorlton Bridge, and will continue to push hard for the repairs to be made by the end of 2021.
Beyond that, for 2021, I am hoping we all have a more peaceful year. A year where we can sit back and appreciate what’s truly important in life. I hope to spend a lot more time with my dog and a bit less time on Zoom calls.
But, if 2021 is anything like 2020, I know I will get to the end of the year still feeling completely blessed to be your Member of Parliament.