Dehenna's Diary: So much has happened in the last six months...
IT’S strange to think that six months has already passed since you were kind enough to elect me as your MP. Thinking back to December feels like a lifetime ago and a lot has changed since then (not just the colour of my hair).
It has certainly been an interesting six months. New colleagues and I were just starting to get the hang of things (and learn our way around the vast maze that is Parliament) when the world was faced with the coronavirus pandemic.
Being a new MP in a time of such uncertainty and change has felt somewhat like a baptism of fire, but I have been working flat out to try to help and support as many local residents as possible.
Here is a taste of what I’ve been up to since you elected me.
In December, Conservative MPs, myself included, voted to deliver on the country’s biggest mandate since the Second World War.
For four years your voices were not represented in Parliament and that was not good enough. It felt truly amazing to play my part in history by helping to deliver Brexit. I am delighted that the Government is still sticking to this commitment and we will be out of the transition period on December 31 this year.
In January, I raised directly to the Prime Minister, and the Health Secretary, at PMQs the potential threat the closure of the stroke ward and Ward 6 at Bishop Auckland A&E posed to our community.
After years of great campaigning by local residents, I was delighted to have spearheaded the final push, leading to a cancelling of the consultation and the scrapping of the proposed ward closure.
I have joined other political figures to raise calls for further investment in the North, meeting with key regional and national voices to promote the manifesto of the North.
This week I will be taking part in a policy call with Number 10 to discuss this very topic, and what policy and investment our constituency wants to see.
This year’s Budget promised huge investment in the North and we must ensure that levelling up remains at the heart of the Government’s agenda as we emerge from coronavirus.
In terms of local projects, I now sit on the Bishop Auckland Town Fund Board, where we will be administering the bid for the up to £25million of funding Bishop has been awarded. This is alongside another pot of up to £25million for the Future High Street Fund (where the bid was submitted early in June).
In February, I was elected onto the Home Affairs Select Committee, a committee that plays a vital role in scrutinising the work of the Home Office on issues such as crime, policing, immigration, and national security.
Recently, we have heard evidence on a wide range of subjects. For me, the most interesting recently was around online safety and what social media companies and other organisations are doing to keep our children safe online, especially during Covid.
In Parliament I have also joined a range of APPGs, including the APPG for Video Games. While, yes, this has long been a hobby of mine and for that I have attracted some criticism, the video game sector is important to the economy.
The UK is sixth in the world for video games production, and the sector employs about 50,000 people in the UK, adding £4billion to the economy. And here in the North East we have a thriving video games sector.
Working locally, I have met representatives from BT and EE to discuss how to improve local rural connectivity.
I am delighted that the Government has announced a Shared Rural Network between the four major UK providers – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.
This will achieve 95 per cent coverage across the UK and will see £1 billion invested in improving 4G coverage ultimately eradicating “notspots”.
I am following the work being carried out across Teesdale and Weardale carefully to ensure we get the biggest bang for our buck and get more people set up with quick, stable connections.
Before the coronavirus crisis, I launched a new initiative to spend my time away from Parliament during recess working in local industry for a day. The aim was to get to know the ins and outs of our local businesses, what issues are facing them, and what the Government and I can do to ensure our local economy flourishes.
Sadly, I only managed one session before the lockdown hit, but had a great time with the Maughan family and their hens learning all about egg production.
As the lockdown eases, please do get in touch if you’d like me to come along and learn more about your work.
It certainly has been an extremely fast paced six months and it feels as if it has flown by.
Since the start of the lockdown my team and I have been working tirelessly to ensure anyone affected by the coronavirus crisis have the support they need.
I set up the Bishop Auckland Community Angels, and an army of you came forward to volunteer and help those who could not leave their homes get their shopping, medicine and other supplies.
To recognise the amazing work of local people who have gone above and beyond to support the community, I also launched Our Unsung Heroes, and have awarded six certificates so far, and prizes from some of our great local businesses.
My whole team and I have worked extremely hard throughout to ensure every urgent email, phone call or letter asking for genuine help is heard and answered as quickly as possible.
We have helped countless businesses access vital grants, tenants extend their contracts, vulnerable people get their food and medicine, workers apply for furlough funds, and more.
When standing for election, I promised to be your voice in Parliament. I have, and will continue to, work for you and cannot wait to get back to dedicating my whole time in Parliament to delivering on our local priorities to boost our local area once we have passed through this pandemic.
Dehenna Davison is MP for Bishop Auckland