Welcome to my latest newsletter as Member of Parliament of Nottingham North, and the last one of the year as I’ll be away on my honeymoon next Friday!
This week’s newsletter will be dedicated to rounding up the main things I’ve done since I was elected in June, and likewise I’ll be using the first newsletter in January to look ahead to what 2018 has in store, but before that there’s one Parliamentary contribution it would be amiss not to mention.
On Tuesday, the provisional Local Government Settlement for 2018-19 was announced and debated – that is, the money provided to councils and the scope they’re given to raise their own. Across the last 2 years, this has changed significantly from a system based on central government grant to one in which local sources (such as council tax and business rates) determine a council’s revenue. During this change the Government provided a transition grant to ease the difficulties faced by local authorities. Unfortunately, this wasn’t distributed fairly, with 83% of the grant going to Conservative-controlled Councils. I therefore spoke up in Tuesday’s debate to ensure this wasn’t going to be done again, and the Secretary of State responded confirming that it is being dropped for good. You can watch this here.
Now onto the round-up…
As I’ve said before, I will strive to send you a newsletter like this each Friday to keep you updated on the work I’m doing in Parliament as well as in our community, and to inform you of any interesting events taking place in our area. To help me with the latter, if you are running or know of anything that you think may be of interest to others, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will include it in future issues. Please also forward it onto anyone you think may be interested.
My first Parliamentary contributions
Becoming an MP has meant an awful lot of ‘first’ milestones, as I go through the rituals that every MP does, some very soon after being elected, some more recently and some I look forward to achieving in the future.
27th June was one day I met two of these milestones, as I asked my first Parliamentary Question to Margot James MP on zero-hours contracts, before making my Maiden Speech in the House of Commons during a debate on the Queen’s Speech.
I used mine to thank my predecessor, Graham Allen, paid tribute to the great city of Nottingham and to the things and people that make us special, and then made clear what I would be working towards as a Member of Parliament. I shared my anger about the cyclical poverty we endure in Nottingham North, and vowed to work hard to make it a better place. You can watch it again hereor read it here.
Since then I’ve also secured my first Westminster Hall Debate (more on that to come), been on my first Bill Committee, got my first more senior job as Private Parliamentary Secretary to Jon Ashworth MP, and most recently, asked my first question to the Prime Minister, which was just last week (watch it again here). I dearly hope that these will all be the first of many, and I’m looking forward to reaching plenty of other milestones.
Westminster Hall Debates
One of my ‘first’ milestones was securing my first debate Westminster Hall, and there has since been one more. I apply for debates such as these every week for an opportunity to raise an important issue in more detail, allow my colleagues to raise their own opinions and hopefully send a persuasive message to the Government Ministers.
The first, on 11th October, was on Advice Services in Nottingham, and allowed me an opportunity to discuss the incredibly wide range of organisations offering free advice on a variety of issues we have in the city. Some provide a specific service across the city, some support a small locality or focus on a certain community, but what they have in common is their value to the people who rely upon them. I used the debate to highlight some of them; outlining the services on offer, and addressing some of the challenges they’re facing, including the full roll-out of Universal Credit which begins in Nottingham next Summer, which threatens to derail the level of service that can be provided. You can watch this debate again here, or read the transcript here.
More recently I had the chance to discuss the issue of voter registration in the constituency, and to publicly state a belief of mine that we should introduce a system of automatic registration. There are estimated to be about 6 million people missing from the UK electoral register, and millions are spent by local authorities every year trying to maintain this incomplete list.
Two simple changes would create a seamless process that is more convenient and less error-prone for both voters and government officials: firstly, eligible citizens who interact with government agencies would be registered to vote unless they decline. Secondly, agencies could transfer voter registration information electronically to election officials. This policy would boost registration rates, clean up the rolls, make voting more convenient, and reduce the potential for voter fraud, all while lowering costs. The end game is achieving full participation in our democracy – and an accurate system that is easier to administer.
I have continued to question the Cabinet Office on this important issue since. You can watch the debate here or read the transcript here.
As well as the debates I secured, there have been other debates both in the House of Commons Chamber and Westminster Hall where I have contributed, to raise aspects of the discussion that I consider particularly important and hopefully persuade others of my viewpoint.
- On 12th July, I joined my Nottingham neighbour Lilian Greenwood’s Westminster Hall Debate on Nottingham Schools to outline the effect that cuts to school budgets are having and will continue to have on schools in Nottingham North, and more importantly, their pupils. Getting a good start in life is key to moving out of poverty, and should be something we aspire to for every child, but unfortunately in our constituency that too often isn’t the case. Our schools losing money in real terms will cost them staff and other resources which are necessary to keep up the good work they’ve been doing. You can watch the full debate here, watch my speech here, or read it here.
- On 11th September, I set out my reasons for voting against the Brexit Bill getting a Second Reading. During June’s election, I made two promises about Brexit to whom are now my constituents: first, that I would respect the outcome of the referendum; and secondly, that I would work to get the best deal for our fine city. I believed that the Bill as it was, was not fit for purpose, because it utterly bypassed the very Parliament that our constituents elected us to form. Moreover, there are sweeping powers outlined in the Bill that allow Ministers to make changes to other laws. I believe these are powers that require effective oversight or accountability. However, such safeguards are currently lacking from the Bill. The Bill also lacks clear enforcement mechanisms. While the Bill passed and still has major flaws, I’m at least pleased that last week the Bill was amended to guarantee Parliament a meaningful vote on the final negotiation. You can watch this speech here, or read it here.
- On 26th October, I joined another debate secured by a local colleague, this time Vernon Coaker MP. The debate was on Modern Slavery, an issue I’m incredibly passionate about and have been working with the Co-Op Group relentlessly to tackle. One of the biggest issues with Modern Slavery is a lack of awareness, with 1 of 10 not knowing what it is and 2 in 3 not knowing how to recognise it, so I highlighted this and the actions we can take to improve the situation, and allow the Modern Slavery Act to make the difference it intended. You can watch my contribution here.
- And just last week, on 12th December, I spoke in a debate on Women’s Refuges secured by Jess Phillips MP before following it up with my question to the Prime Minister on the 13th. Women’s Aid believe that Refuge Services, of which there are 4 in Nottingham, are under threat due to Government plans to change their funding. I spoke for the 15,000 domestic violence survivors Nottingham City Council believe live in my constituency, who rely on these services and are too important to be let down by not making simple changes. You can watch this speech here.
These are far from my only contributions to Parliament, just some that I consider most important. You can read through the entirety of my contributions here.
While a lot of my work is done in Parliament, I have tried to spend as much time over the last 6 months as possible at home in Nottingham, and use this time as productively as possible. My job is to represent the people of Nottingham North and do best by them, and to do this means making sure I know what they want. I therefore spend a large amount of my time here visiting and meeting with constituents, local businesses, charities, organisations, schools and the like, to the extent that my Nottingham diary is often full weeks to months in advance.
Here are some of the more interesting experiences so far:
- I’ve visited several of the schools in the constituency, where I’ve been kindly shown around, talked to pupils and teachers alike, hopefully inspired some youngsters, and even opened the new facilities at Park Vale Academy. If I haven’t been to your school yet, get in touch!
- I attended Sunrise’s Sports Day, where I got to join in all kinds of fun and games. Sunrise House is one of many locations in the region run by Framework Housing Association to tackle homelessness people in the area. Framework do excellent work. At Sunrise they have 16 homes for young mums aged 16 – 19. It was a great privilege to meet the staff, take a tour and hear the stories of local users of Framework’s services. And then I got to show off my competitive side with some hilarious activities like welly-tossing and an egg and spoon race.
- I met with Guide Dogs charity for a dog walk in the constituency, which gave me the chance to meet with both their political team and some of the local people who rely on support dogs and see the difference it makes to them – even trying out blindfolded walks with an assistance dog and a white cane.
- I was tested for HIV by the Terrence Higgins Trust to help raise attention – as 1 in 8 UK sufferers of HIV are unaware they’ve been infected. You can find more information about the screenings offered here.
This is a fraction of the things I’ve been up to. If you’ve hosted me at your school, church or organisation thank you very much. If you’ve got something you’d like me to see – please get in touch.
Rebalancing the Outer Estates
As I’ve mentioned recently, I now Chair local charity Rebalancing the Outer Estates. Being an Opposition Backbench MP it can be difficult to bring about change. But this charity is making a direct difference in our area and I am proud to lead it. Here are just some of the great things the Charity has achieved this year:
- Together with Teeth Team they are now working with 10 primary schools in the constituency ensuring that all their pupils have a dental check.
- They organised lung health checks in the constituency. The Roy Castle Foundation believe these have saved 5 lives already this year in Bilborough and Bulwell – with Aspley to come.
- They organised Nottingham North Jobs and Apprentice Fair which helped many people to get into work. The next jobs fair will be on 9th March 2018 in Bulwell Riverside.
- Together with ThinkForward they worked to put skills coaches in four Nottingham North secondary schools: Bulwell Academy, Ellis Guilford, Bluecoat Beechdale and Nottingham University Samworth Academy, to help pupils from these constituency schools succeed in education and progress into employment.
- They helped to install Bulwell Welcome Archway.
This is just a snippet, and you can find more by visiting the website here.
One part of my job that I don’t often get to talk about, for privacy and confidentiality reasons, is casework. This is a crucial function of a Member of Parliament and is often how I’m able to make the most direct difference for constituents who need my help. I have a dedicated team in Nottingham who assist me with this, and since I’ve been elected we’ve managed to have some wonderful victories for local people that I’m very proud of, such as wiping out a large unfair tax credit overpayment debt and obtaining deserved clearance to stay in the UK. These both meant we could give wonderful news to vulnerable people who turned to their MP as a last resort, as well as plenty of other smaller bits of help throughout the year. Unfortunately, we aren’t always able to obtain a positive outcome, but we will always try our best, so please do get in touch with my office if we can assist you, or to arrange a slot at my monthly surgery if you’d rather discuss something with me in person.
I want these emails to be as interesting as possible. That means there’ll be some politics – it’s important that I am held accountable. But I also want to offer information about what’s on locally. So, if you have an event you’d like me to advertise, let me know.
Drop In Café
All welcome for a free cuppa and biscuit, and a place to sit and have a chat
Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Parish Community Centre, Brooklyn Rd, Bulwell NG6 9ES
St Philip’s/St Matthew’s Knit & Natter groups
St Philip’s Church, Knights Close, Top Valley
1st and 3rd Wednesdays every month, 10am-12pm
Bestwood Community Centre, Gainsford Crescent, Bestwood Estate
2nd Monday every month, 10am-12pm
Messy Church Bestwood/Bulwell Forest
Bestwood Community Centre, Gainsford Crescent, Bestwood Estate
Tuesdays, 4:30-6pm, next Messy Church January 16th
Bestwood Park Church, Beckhampton Rd, Bestwood Park
Thursdays, 4:30-6pm, next Messy Church January 11th
Church on Rise Park, Revelstoke Way, Rise Park
Thursdays 5-6:30pm, next Messy Church January 18th
Drinks, crafts, activities, bible stories and a meal for all ages and interests
Bulwell United Reform Church, Broomhill Road/Brooklyn Road, Bulwell
Usually first Saturday of every month, 10:30am-12:30pm
Bestwood Park Church’s Bestop Kitchen
Social Eating Event, Donations Welcome
Bestwood Park Church, Beckhampton Road, NG5 5NG
Every Tuesday, 12-3pm
Free Community Cinema
Free screenings of films, everyone welcome!
St John’s Church, Key’s Close, Bulwell
2nd Friday every month, 7pm
Free monthly group developing opportunities for more art in public places in Bulwell. With trips to galleries and hands-on creative workshops, this group is for local people who want to be arts champions for Bulwell. Facilitated by Nottingham Contemporary associate artist Gillian Brent
Bulwell Riverside, Community Room 2
2nd Tuesday every month, 6-8pm
For further info: www.creativenottinghamnorth.com, @CreativeNNorth, email@example.com
Bring along a project, or learn to do something new.
St Martins Church, St Martin’s Rd, Off Strelley Rd, Bilborough, NG8 3BH
Every Wednesday, 11am – 2pm
50p, for further info: www.stmartinsbilborough.org.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Room at Tesco Bulwell, Jennison St, NG6 8EQ (upstairs near the cafe)
First Wednesday of every month, 6:30pm–8:30pm
£5 (covers refreshments and materials)
For further info: www.apriltowriess.co.uk, email@example.com
Sound as a Pound have asked me to advertise their 2-day finance ‘Money Talks’ courses in Nottingham. Transport and lunch are both provided, attendees will receive a £10 gift voucher for each day and there are plenty of other freebies on offer, as well as some sound money-saving advice! For further information you can call 0115 844 3745, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www.soundasapound.org.
If you would like your events advertised here, or further information on those advertised, please email me at email@example.com.
That’s all for now! Details of how to get in touch or to have a look at the things I’m doing are below…
All the best,
How to contact me
If you would like to contact me, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or give my Nottingham North constituency office a ring on 0115 975 2377.
If you are a constituent from Nottingham North e-mailing me regarding a casework issue you are my priority, so please ensure your message includes:
- your full name
- your full postal address, including postcode
- a contact telephone number and
- any helpful details relevant to your case such as date of birth, reference numbers etc.
Strict parliamentary protocol means I can only deal with issues on behalf of my own constituents. If you aren’t sure whether you live in Nottingham North, you can check who your local MP is by entering your postcode online here: findyourmp.parliament.uk.
You may also wish to write to me with your concerns. If so please send your correspondence to Alex Norris MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A OAA. All constituents who take the time and trouble to write a personal letter will receive a reply as a matter of priority.
Other useful links
- If you’d like to learn more about the Labour party their website is here.
- To join the Labour Party click here.
- Benefits Information: Here’s an excellent site that allows you to find out exactly what benefits you are eligible to claim: EntitledTo
- Housing: please contact your City Council
- Problems with benefits or the Child Support Agency? The Citizens Advice Bureau and the Nottingham Welfare Rights Service can give advice. Remember to have your National Insurance number handy if you make an inquiry.
- Local schools / education matters: please contact your City Council.
- Employment rights: see Citizens Advice Bureau or the Trades Union Congress for info.
- Social services, environmental health, noise nuisance, parking, and Council Tax should all be addressed to the City Council.
- Another useful website on public services is Direct.gov.
- For the main Parliamentary website click here and to explore the Parliamentary education site click here.