First of all, I would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year. It was very good to spend a quiet Christmas, in Barnsley with my family. It was also great to have time working in Barnsley before returning to Westminster.
During these first weeks of 2012, it has been great to meet some of the people who work hard to make Barnsley a town we can all be proud of. And during the first week of the year, we awarded trophies to our Proud of Barnsley Winners. Back in November, our judges; Milly Johnson, Ashley Jackson and Sir Nicholas Hewitt, deliberated long and hard over the many entries we had received and compiled a shortlist. The Barnsley Chronicle then asked its readers to vote for their favourite for the People’s Choice Award.
I was delighted, along with my parliamentary neighbour Michael Dugher, to present the winners with their trophies, Harry Chinnock, from Cawthorne, was a deserving People’s Choice winner and Jorgi-Lea Peel and Georgina Kerr of St Michael’s High School, worked together to produce an excellent picture that was selected as the overall winner by our judges.
Jorgi-Lea and Georgina will be travelling to Westminster to see their winning entry on display at the House of Commons and all three winners were presented with art equipment, courtesy of Ashley Jackson. The awards night was a fantastic evening and it was very good to see so many people gathered together to celebrate the talents of our young people.
On January 6th, I was asked to perform the official opening of the Springwell Community School, in Athersley. I have been to Springwell on a number of occasions and have always been impressed by the dedication and commitment of the staff. I was honoured to open the incredible new school building, with its state-of-the-art facilities.
As you are probably aware, Barnsley MBC has forged a partnership with the Olympic host borough of Newham. The Newham Barnsley Partnership (NBP) is doing an incredible job of bringing the Olympics to Barnsley in a way that no other borough can do, because of the relationship that has been built between the two local authorities. I was pleased to attend a Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce event, last Friday morning to support the work of the NBP and explore how it will benefit businesses in Barnsley.
I was also pleased to visit Aspire Training this week. Aspire work with young people who are not in education, employment or training. They work hard to help young people aspire and to ensure they have the skills, motivation and confidence to reach their full potential. My next stop was Shopmobility, in the town centre. It is here that anyone with limited mobility can make use of scooters to get them around town and enable them to shop and socialise. This is a vital service, not only for the local people who use the service, but also for the retailers in our town centre, who are supported by the additional custom.
On Saturday, I held one of my ward-based surgeries in Royston, at the Lifelong Learning Centre and Library. This is a great place and I recommend a visit, the facilities on offer, such as the internet cafe, library lending and Connexions office, make it a valuable resource in the community. I will be holding ward-based surgeries around the constituency, throughout the year; As usual, details will be posted on my website and in the local editions of the Barnsley Chronicle.