York Press column: 2021 a Year of Wins for York
December 29, 2021
With this being my last column of the year, it is hard not to reflect on the 2021; a year where in some places we feel we have come so far and in others we are experiencing deja vu. It is also important to remember that while the pandemic has dominated the news, life has continued and there have even been some big wins for York.
Our year began with a new trade agreement securing ongoing free trade and friendly collaboration with our European neighbours, while regaining full national independence, and allowing our country to seek out new opportunities in the wider world. It ends with a newly agreed Australian trade deal, worth £14 billion based on 2020 trade and setting us well on course to reach our target to cover 80% of our global trade with Free Trade Agreements.
While I welcome efforts to break down barriers to trade, which will allow businesses in York to export their goods and services around the world, I have consistently raised the issue of parliamentary scrutiny with the Government. In January, I pressed for MPs to be given a yes/no vote on future FTAs and supported an amendment to the Trade Bill which would have put such requirements into law, as I believe giving parliamentarians a clear vote is the only way we can truly represent our constituents’ views on new deals.
2021 has also been a year where the public have had a renewed focus on the environment. COP26 saw commitments from global superpowers to reduce emissions by 2050 to halt climate change and protect our planet for future generations. Closer to home, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs awarded City of York Council £297,237 from their Air Quality Grant Scheme to investigate how to reduce pollution from goods vehicles. Important research like this will allow businesses to make the switch the net zero while remaining competitive and not increasing overheads. It has always been my belief that we need to make such changes the better business choice as well as the best environmental choice to encourage more to make the switch.
In York we are no stranger to the power of nature and this year saw the return of flooding, which only consolidated the difficulties already facing by many families during lockdown. To help protect homes in coming years, the Government confirmed in July total flood defence investment in York of over £34 million by 2027 with half being delivered before April to fund ongoing improvements as part of the York Flood Alleviation Scheme. This funding allocation secures the way to better protecting over 1,700 York homes against floodwater. I will continue to lobby for funding to ensure our homes and business are protected from flooding
Since being elected over a decade ago, improving our children’s education has been a key priority and this year has been no different, especially with the added importance for teaching to return to the classroom following lockdown. Hempland Primary School was one of fifty schools nationwide successful in the new School Rebuilding Programme, which will allow thousands of pupils in York to benefit from new, modern, energy efficient school buildings. Ensuring we minimise the impact of the pandemic on educational outcomes needs to be our primary focus next year and I will continue my crusade for more funding for our schools.
It is not just our younger children who need additional support though; children who have had to prepare for GCSE and A Level exams amid lockdown and classroom disruption have experienced additional. This year, Askham Bryan College, University of York and York College have all been successful in funding bids to the Department for Education totalling in excess £1million to boost access to technical training and upgrade facilities. By investing in students today, we will have a high skilled workforce in the future.
Looking ahead to 2022, I will not rest in my efforts to deliver more victories and funding for York as we hopefully refocus on our lives outside the pandemic. I welcome the news that we will enter the new year without additional restrictions and I hope this marks a new chapter in our pandemic response where we wait for complete data before making decisions that have real effects on people’s lives.