In the chamber yesterday I had the chance to comment on the Queen’s speech.
The Queen’s speech outlined the Government’s priorities, and at the top of that list is the cost of living. Of course this is going to be a difficult yet vital challenge to tackle, and it was right for the Government to emphasise this in the speech. I personally feel more can be done to tackle this and I hope the Chancellor will be announcing more measures very soon to help ease the burden of the cost of living.
We also heard about new provisions to improve our town centres, which I welcome. In Ipswich, this is a subject close to our hearts, with some feeling our town centre has gone downhill. It is our main civic place and somewhere we are passionate about. I am pleased that since election in 2019 I have been able to secure £25 million in the Town Deal and I know the improvements have started already.
We have many brilliant small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs. On Monday I brought the Chancellor to meet these passionate and entrepreneurial local people for himself, and to see the Micro-Shops concept.
In Ipswich, we need to continue working on bringing buildings back to life, like old post-office becoming the fantastic new Botanist venue. The new powers of local authorities for compulsory rental auction will help give councils the impetus and the ability to bring these important old buildings back into usage, rather than letting them collect dust.
To increase footfall across high-streets and town centres we must also address constituents’ concerns about anti-social behaviour, with some residents avoiding town at certain times because of this. I urgently want to see enforcement of no-alcohol zones as well as hands-on dispersal of groups causing problems, in order to make this a space where everyone can feel safe and comfortable.
Yesterday I was invited to the highly regarded Public Accounts Committee session on the green paper as an expert on the subject and as a member of the Education Select committee. To be invited to join this committee is a privilege and I was pleased to be able to add my thoughts on Special Educational Needs provisions.
I raised questions about the provision for those with learning difficulties in mainstream schools. I am very keen to ensure that all teachers who are not specialists in this area are able to get the support they need in order to teach those with special educational needs in mainstream schools.
I also wanted to highlight the positive work Matt Hancock’s campaign is doing to implement universal screening for dyslexia for primary school children. As someone who is both dyslexic and dyspraxic, I absolutely know the value of specialist teaching. It is something that must be expanded to all hidden learning difficulties so they can be given the same effective teaching as those without. Early identification is key in delivering the right support for every child and this is something I am keen to see put in motion.
While the Chancellor was in Ipswich, I wanted to show him some of our wonderful independent shops. St Peter’s Street is a great example of this. As well as Applaud Coffee, I brought the Chancellor to see Maria in Hug Womenswear and Cathy at OneLove gift shop.
Rishi Sunak also met Antonio, who runs The Italian Shirt Shop. Antonio thanked the Chancellor for his support for small businesses throughout the pandemic – and said that without the drastic action and unprecedented grants, his and many other small businesses wouldn’t have survived.
It’s clear that these unique shops bring a lot of atmosphere to the street. The Chancellor was impressed with the culture of support and commented that it is places like this that really make Ipswich a vibrant town centre and a great place to shop.
Surprise visitor in ipswich this morning. Big meeting with Google at Portman Road followed by trip to meet business owners along St Peter’s Street and ended up at Microshops-Ipswich on Carr Street.
Many of the businesses we’ve met with have raised numerous concerns over the past few years so it was great for them to be able to meet the Chancellor in person.
Was also really pleased for him to meet with many of the small independent businesses at Microshops. It’s been a great success story giving a foothold to many small independent businesses, many who have no got premises elsewhere in Town.