It has been a very hectic few weeks in both Westminster and Barnsley.
Every week I try to meet as many people from across the town as possible and visit the organisations, charities, schools and businesses that support the residents in our town. I have been fortunate recently, to meet some truly inspirational local champions and to find out just how much they give to our community.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have visited DIAL Barnsley, to find out more about the important advice services they offer; I also visited Barnsley Domestic Violence Group (BDVG) and was very impressed with the incredible range of services offered there for anyone who has suffered domestic abuse and violence. They help a large number of mostly women, supporting them in breaking the cycle of abuse and in making a new start. Quite often, the hidden victims in cases of domestic abuse are children and last year, BDVG helped over four-hundred children as part of their vital work. It was a privilege to meet just a few of their dedicated team.
BDVG is one of the many groups locally who receive funding from the Big Lottery Fund and I was pleased to have Paul Jones, the Head of the BLF for the Yorkshire Region, come to Barnsley and tell me about the wide-range of community groups and organisations that have benefitted in Barnsley from lottery money.
Another group that is helped by the Big Lottery Fund is the Royston and Carlton Community Partnership, Older Persons Well-Being Project. It was really good to meet with some of the group members and Gail Naylor, who does amazing work in organising social gatherings, a lunch club and many other events for the elderly residents to enjoy; once again demonstrating the real value of the Big Lottery Fund.
Last week, I also met with the Chairs of the Barnsley MBC Scrutiny Commissions. The Scrutiny Commissions are an excellent demonstration of democracy in action. Barnsley MBC has four scrutiny commissions, made up of fifteen elected councillors – non-cabinet members – and co-opted members of the wider community. The scrutiny Commissions support the work of the council by investigating any issues or areas of public concern and as part of this, they can call representatives of the council, police, NHS trust, etc. to their meetings to be questioned. It was very interesting and useful to hear how this important function is carried out.
This week I was also honoured to attend the royal British Legion’s 90th Anniversary Festival of Remembrance at St Mary’s Church, Barnsley. The church was full of former and serving servicemen and women, the Mayor, Members of the Council, residents and students from Barnsley College, who had put together an outstanding and powerful film and narrative on war and our armed forces. I was humbled to meet the parents of the late Capt Martin Driver who tragically died in Afghanistan whilst serving our country. Martin and his family personify everything that is good about our town and it was extremely moving that the final image of the Barnsley College film was of Martin, serving in Afghanistan with The Royal Anglian Regiment.
On Saturday, I was delighted to attend the Royston St John the Baptist Autumn Fair and coffee morning with my family. I met with Fr Matt Bullimore, who is a recent addition to the Royston community and chatted with many residents before drawing the raffle. I also enjoyed the refreshments very much; there were some very good homemade cakes and excellent bacon sandwiches!
Today, I am back in Westminster for another very busy week in parliament.