Tomorrow, 1 August, is Yorkshire Day – always a great moment and opportunity to celebrate the parts of our culture, our heritage and our history that we are most proud of. I’ve always felt that our shared Yorkshire identity isn’t something that can be quantified into graphs or presented on Government balance sheets – it’s an emotional connection that brings together the people of Barnsley and Bradford, Sheffield and Shipley, Rotherham and Ripon and so many more besides. It’s the shared identity that’s expressed on the terraces of Oakwell, Headingley and Elland Road where Yorkshire folk come together in that famous, cross-county chant – “Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire” – which never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up whenever I hear it. It’s partly why I’ve fought so hard to put the decisions about our region’s future in our region’s hands through unlocking the South Yorkshire Devolution Deal in recent weeks – alongside a commitment to for our Local Authorities and the Government to work on shared, pan-Yorkshire priorities.Read more
In last week’s Economic Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a golden opportunity to listen to what Northern leaders and Mayors have been calling for throughout this pandemic and deliver big, bold, structural reforms to our economy that would fundamentally change the way our economy works. People in Barnsley – and across South Yorkshire and the wider North – know only too well that the British economy doesn’t work in their interests. That too much investment in infrastructure, transport and jobs in drawn to London and the South East. Regular readers will know the statistic I cite that underlines this most clearly – for every pound spent on transport infrastructure in Yorkshire and the Humber, London and the South East get £3.40. It shouldn’t be the case that areas with deep and enduring inequalities get less support and investment from central government. It is a fundamental question of fairness. It was also an opportunity last week for Rishi Sunak to reverse decades of underfunding and drive a fairer recovery.Read more
On Monday, the South Yorkshire Devolution Deal Order was laid in Parliament – securing new powers and resources for our region at a time when they have never been more urgently needed.Read more
The re-imposition of a local lockdown in Leicester is a timely reminder that COVID-19 has not gone away. As the national lockdown begins to ease this weekend, it has never been more important for people to follow the latest guidance from the NHS and Public Health England to reduce the risk of transmission.
The Government must ensure that Local Authorities have access to clear, consistent data on local transmission rates and have the powers to effectively implement local lockdowns where required.
I am in regular contact with the Leader of the Council and the Director of Public Health who have reassured me that they are in control of the situation and are working closely with Public Health England to manage the local response. It is absolutely vital that we continue to keep a very close eye on new cases and take whatever steps are necessary to protect lives in Barnsley.
In one of the most memorable scenes in Barnsley’s film history – the PE lesson in Kes – Brian Glover (a Barnsley schoolteacher in a previous life) vividly brings to life Mr Sugden, or a “fair-headed, slightly balding Bobby Charlton”, whose Manchester United side goes down to a 2-1 defeat away at Spurs in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. This scene is wonderfully powerful, sitting amongst a story about the potential that every individual has within them. Although the film’s main character Billy Casper may have been written off by society, he finds, through his natural affinity with the kestrel he rears, his own unique place in the world. Kes is a brilliant evocation of Barnsley – on location in the borough, written by local teacher Barry Hines and featuring a predominantly local cast – yet it is the seven-minute scene on the football field that is so often remembered.Read more
The Coronavirus crisis has brought out the best of our formidable Barnsley community spirit. I’ve heard truly heart-warming stories about the volunteers who have gone above and beyond to support friends and neighbours. The volunteers who are collecting shopping and medications for those who are shielding in their village. The women at ‘For the Love of Scrubs’ who have produced PPE for the front-line. The pub landlord who has cooked hundreds of meals for vulnerable residents. These are just a few examples of the extraordinary character that exemplifies our coalfield communities.Read more
Lockdown and enforced social isolation is taking its toll on all of us. Next Monday marks 8 weeks since the Prime Minister announced that we must stay at home, apart from for essential travel, to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. The lockdown is starting to take effect in reducing the rate of transmission and preventing our NHS from being overwhelmed. However, we cannot ignore the considerable personal burden this places on everyone who is apart from their families, not knowing when they will be reunited, or are experiencing ‘cabin fever’ at being cooped up at home with nowhere to go.Read more