I can only start my column by praising the immense effort of Bury CCG, Council, GP’s surgeries, community pharmacists, all clinicians, vaccination staff and volunteers on the fantastic work being undertaken to roll out the COVID vaccination programme in our area. Over 22,000 of our fellow residents have been vaccinated, including all our elderly care home residents. If supply continues at present levels, we are confident that Bury will have vaccinated the top 4 cohorts by the 15th February and this will be a monumental achievement.
The Government’s priority remains the re-opening of schools at the earliest opportunity. Teachers and support staff in Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington are doing a fantastic job in incredibly difficult circumstances. I believe that absolutely everything must be done to ensure that all children are able to return to the classroom. Each day of schooling missed hurts a pupil’s life chances, development and increases anxiety and mental health issues for those we must do everything to protect. I am of the view that we should consider priority vaccinations for teachers and support staff as part of this process. No stone must be left unturned in our quest to safeguard our children’s futures.
Politics has continued as normal during the pandemic however, with misleading and disingenuous campaigns being mounted by the local Labour party against myself. I welcome the challenge and scrutiny I face but many claims put out on social media about me are factually inaccurate. I continue to be disappointed that local politicians who could contact me at any point to work collaboratively on policies to improve the lives of Bury residents would prefer to indulge in cheap smears. It has been claimed in recent weeks that I voted to impose a mandatory Council tax rise on my constituents and that I supported a cut to Universal Credit. Utter rubbish.
Labour opposition debates in Parliament are non-binding and do not change the law, but even then, I did not vote against these Motions. Together with members of the Northern Research Group of Conservative MP’s I support the retention of the temporary £20 increase in UC and will continue to lobby Ministers on this as part of the pre-Budget Consultation. The choice to raise Council tax in Bury is a matter for the ruling Labour Group and no one else. Over the last financial year, the government have provided over £100 million in extra financial support to Bury MBC and local business through Council administered grants, but local Labour politicians are less eager to publicise facts such as these.
I truly hope that we can work together on improving the lives of our residents as I already have done with Council Officers, on occasion with Labour councillors and will continue to do so. We need to do this for all our sakes but I suspect for many involved in politics within our town the desire to blacken my character is more important than creating the jobs, training opportunities and regeneration that our area so badly needs.