I have now received an email in response to my letter to City University about the wind tunnel. I am glad that it looks like the appropriate work in relation to the Orwell Bridge will now take place next month which should allow the timetable regarding the introduction of the new speed limit that will help keep the bridge open during windy spells to be hit. This is all rather protracted but I will continue to keep my eye on things and update.
Once this final validation is secured that its safe to keep the bridge open during windy spells with a new 40pmh speed limit then we will move a big step forward towards ending the chaos associated with constant bridge closures
There was a debate in Parliament today on a petition about recognition for our NHS Staff and their exceptional efforts during Covid-19. Many have written into me calling for them to be recognised and it was a privilege to use this moment in the chamber to thank our local NHS and social care workers on behalf of our whole town.
As well as recognising our NHS and care staff I was also able to thank in the House the pupils and staff at Ipswich School and Northgate Highschool who made thousands of pieces of PPE for our local frontline NHS staff, and the landlord of the Lattice Bar Pub in Ipswich who opened his doors to NHS staff even when the pub faced significant challenges of its own due to Covid.
Many have also been in touch calling for frontline NHS and care staffs’ pay to be increased. I do think it is important that the Government recognises the strength of feeling around this issue in the country and gives this careful consideration at the earliest opportunity.
Following my speech in Parliament yesterday on the proposals to remove elective orthopaedic surgery from Ipswich Hospital, I raised the matter again today by calling for Parliament to have a full debate on the matter.
I won’t stop raising this issue and how I believe it would be detrimental to many people in Ipswich to move hip and knee surgery further away from them to a centre in Colchester. This issue deserves national attention and I’ll keep knocking on the doors of power to get this recognised.
The local Clinical Commissioning Group is expected to make a final decision on the proposals on 14th July and it’s urgent the voice of the overwhelming majority of people in Ipswich is fully heard before that decision is made.
Following my joint letter with Cllr Ellesmere earlier this week, in Parliament yesterday I raised again how I strongly believe the plans to transfer elective orthopaedic surgery from Ipswich Hospital to a new centre in Colchester are not in the interests of the people of Ipswich. I asked Ministers to meet with me to discuss in detail my concerns and those of many Ipswich residents.
Around 700,000 orthopaedic patients have had their surgery postponed across the country due to Covid-19, and I built on our letter by stressing how important it is not to move key orthopaedic services away from people in Ipswich when we face this unprecedented national challenge. The people of Ipswich and Colchester both deserve first-rate hospitals to take on the challenges ahead and top quality care close to where they live. Stripping one hospital of what can only be described as core services at this time would be a fundamental step in the wrong direction.
I’ll continue to raise this issue at every opportunity in Parliament to urge Ministers to consider intervening and to call for the money currently earmarked for the proposed orthopaedic centre to be spent equally between Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals so the number of delays and cancellations to hip and knee surgery can be cut in both towns.
It was also a privilege to use this moment in the Chamber to thank our local NHS staff and social care workers in Ipswich for all they have done over recent months. And I also raised the importance of tackling the mental health challenges caused by Covid. The mental health impact of the virus will be with us for a lot longer than the virus itself and we must be ready to address this issue over the long-term.
This is not an easy time for young people who are just getting on the employment ladder and today I raised the situation of local apprentices on the Education Committee. 350 of Suffolk New College’s 450 apprentices are currently on furlough and there is significant concern that many of them may not have an apprenticeship to go back to. We must look at what we can do to ensure that apprentices can complete their qualifications and don’t fall behind.
There are also many fewer businesses offering apprenticeships next year which will significantly reduce the funding colleges like Suffolk New College receive for the teaching element of apprenticeships they provide. Even before Covid-19 there was a general recognition that more investment was needed in apprenticeships and technical education, but due to the virus further education colleges are now facing a particularly acute impact on their finances.
In response to me on the Committee today, the Chief Executive of the Association of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes, underlined how about £2bn of colleges’ income is at risk for the next academic year out of a total £7bn.
This comes at a time when our further education colleges couldn’t be more important for getting young people well-trained and into our economy. And I will do everything I can to support all our colleges and further education providers in Ipswich. I will support more funding for them to meet these unprecedented challenges wherever possible.