Barnoldswick & Earby Time, Colne Times and Nelson Leader Column: Friday 28th December 2018

Final press column of 2018…published 28/12/18

If the last few weeks are anything to go by, 2019 looks set to be a bumpy year politically.

The past year has had a fair deal of highs and lows. We celebrated further investment at Rolls-Royce in Barnoldswick early in the year, only to find out about further job losses in December. Flood prevention work on the Victoria Clough culvert in Earby finally got underway, before running into issues. My successful campaign to see more defibrillators installed across Pendle saw an additional 25 being unveiled across Pendle during 2018, but we still need more.

Back in February, I was delighted to welcome the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP to Colne where he announced funding for a feasibility study on reopening the Colne to Skipton railway line. This is something I have been pushing for since being elected in 2010 and progressing this scheme and other measures to tack;le congestion in Colne will be at the top of my list of priorities for 2019.

We have seen continuing improvements in our local schools. Since 2010, the number of pupils going to a Pendle school judged by Ofsted to be good or outstanding has more than doubled. However, challenges remain.

The fight for further investment at Burnley General and Airedale Hospital also continues. In April, a new £7 million 48-bed acute assessment unit was opened at Airedale and the £16 million Phase 8 development of Burnley General is well underway. These are welcome developments, however with a new long-term funding plan for the NHS, providing an extra £20.5 billion a year, or £394 million a week, in real terms by 2023-24, we need to ensure our local hospitals get their fair share.

Finally, having voted Leave in 2016 Referendum and been re-elected in 2017 on a promise to deliver Brexit, my priority in the year ahead will be to ensure we do leave the EU on 29 March 2019, with or without a deal. This is what politicians of all political parties promised, when we handed over the right to take this decision to the British people. To make out that people were stupid and must vote again in a second referendum is profoundly wrong.