Friday 5th July was a typical day for me spent in the constituency; meeting and listening to the views of my constituents. I consider my time in Barnsley to be vital for meeting with the public and listening to what they’ve got to say; I believe I couldn’t do my job of effectively representing my constituents in Parliament without this contact. Given that there was some interest about where MPs were on Friday 5th July, I thought it might be useful if I kept a diary about what I did on this particular day, so that people have an idea about what I do on a typical constituency day. Here it is.
Having dropped off my children at school first thing, I met with my Constituency team in our office in the Barnsley Town Hall to review all the correspondence and the invitations we had received throughout the week and to work out how we could best respond to them all. We receive a huge volume of letters, emails and calls each week and we do our level best to respond to them all in a timely and effective way.
After this had been done, it was time to travel to my first appointment of the day; a visit to the Horizon Community College on Dodworth Road. Met at reception by the Principal Nick Bowen, I was given an excellent tour of the newly built school that was part of the Building Schools for the Future scheme brought in by the last Labour Government. The building provides a fantastic learning environment with top-class facilities, but ultimately, it’s the leadership from the teaching staff that will create an atmosphere where young people are inspired to achieve their potential. I believe this climate exists at Horizon College and during the visit I was able to meet with some of the teachers and some of the pupils involved in the Junior Ambassadors’ and Community Enterprise Coordinators’ Schemes. I was hugely impressed by their talent, energy and their ambition. The College is clearly making a great impact on young-people’s lives and, as a Community College in the true sense of the word, is also doing some great work to help improve Barnsley for all residents through proactive outreach to the wider community.
My next engagement was with Steve Wragg and David Peverelle, Chairman and Interim Chief Executive of the Barnsley Hospital Foundation Trust who accompanied me on a visit to the Accident and Emergency Department at the Hospital under the expert guidance of A&E Consultant Julian Humphrey and Matron Debbie Firth. The visit coincided with the 65th anniversary of the NHS, and despite that fact that I’m a very regular visitor to the Hospital this was another great opportunity not only to thank the staff for the amazing work they do, but also to better understand some of the challenges that the hospital currently faces. I was impressed to see the efforts that the Hospital was making to improve the flow of patients through the Emergency Department thereby reducing pressure on the whole hospital system and reducing waiting times as a result. The impressive, newly designed Clinical Decision Unit and other impending improvements will both help significantly in this regard.
Following the visit, I changed focus to the Town Centre and how to improve the economic prospects of our local businesses there. I met with Chris Wood, from Woody’s Traditional Fish and Chips Shop on Eldon Street. Chris is a talented and community-minded young entrepreneur, and we discussed possible schemes to increase the footfall coming in to Barnsley town centre, and to improve the facilities there for local young people. The recent opening of the ‘Experience Barnsley’ Museum will help drive footfall, and the first week’s figures of 5000 visitors gives us reason for optimism. I finished my visit to Woody’s by sampling their fish and chips which were excellent and demonstrate Chris’s focus on quality above all else.
After a meeting back at the Town Hall with a member of the public who had asked to see me, it was time to move on to visit the Lundwood Sewerage Treatment Plant, on Lund Lane to talk with Yorkshire Water about complaints received from local residents about the recent increase in unpleasant smells and the number of flies currently being seen in the local area. During an informative visit, we discussed the action that Yorkshire Water had already taken to improve some of the issues raised, but also their willingness to look at further improvements, and to develop their community liaison to ensure that the local residents are kept informed of any issues that are likely to have an effect on them in the future. I will be following up on this visit with a meeting with the Chief Executive of Yorkshire Water in the next few weeks.
I then returned to my office where I spent the next 2 hours wading through correspondence, talking to constituents on the phone and preparing myself for the various commitments I had agreed to support and attend over the week-end.
At 7pm I headed to the Staincross WMC to attend an event organised by local Councillor Harry Spence. Harry had invited members of the public to come along and "Meet your MP". Over the next couple of hours I met with approximately 25 constituents to listen to their views and opinions – and to tell them some of my own! At 9.30pm as I was about to leave a gentleman came over to me and told me that when I had first been adopted as the Labour candidate in Barnsley he had been sceptical about my candidacy on the grounds that I was not from Barnsley. He looked me in the eye and said; "I was wrong about that – thank you for everything you do for Barnsley". In that moment all the effort, all the hard work becomes instantly worthwhile.
I hope this short account has given a flavour of a typical day in the Barnsley Central constituency. If there is anything at all you would like to know about the work I am doing as your MP then please do get in touch.