This past week I have been out and about across my Barnsley Central constituency. Parliament is in recess for the conference season and so it’s a good chance to be talking to people about the issues that matter to them.
As ever, it’s been a great pleasure to meet people: I enjoyed talking to members of the Royston History group about the importance of understanding our local history. I met with shop workers and the Trade Union USDAW to talk about protections for their members. I talked to a man whose wife was having chemotherapy and a woman who had recently been bereaved. To a student just off to University, full of hopes and dreams for the future. Wherever I have been I have met decent people who have wanted to talk, often not about politics but about a range of other things.
Some people do want to talk politics and a number were keen to discuss what happens now we have voted to leave the EU. As I’ve said previously, the majority of voters in Barnsley opted to leave the EU and I will ensure that their decision is respected. The people have spoken and all politicians have to listen and act accordingly.
Closer to home, many people raised concerns about our over-stretched public services. Whether it’s a council department, South Yorkshire police or an NHS service, people are noticing that they are having to wait longer for help and support.
This is the impact of government cuts and, I’m sad to say, it’s only going to get worse. I know that those working in and running our public services are doing their best, but with more drastic cuts in the pipeline, it’s not looking good. Whatever people say about Theresa May as Prime Minister, so far, she has done little to improve the desperate state of our public services.
It’s not surprising then that some people prefer to concentrate instead on the small but meaningful difference they can make in their local community. It’s been heartening to meet many of these people and organisations, who are quietly working away, despite meagre resources.
Often they are volunteers in their local area, relying on goodwill and public generosity. Some are taking pride in their local area, improving public areas; others are keeping an eye on those most vulnerable in their neighbourhood; some are supporting local public services through their own fundraising. All deserve our support and admiration, and I will certainly be doing all I can to help them.
It has been an excellent week and thank you to all those people who stopped to talk – a nice reminder, not that I needed one, that we are blessed with the most decent straight talking people here in Barnsley.