As I write this week’s column, Parliament is just returning from the Christmas recess and whilst it’s been nice to spend the recess with family and to carry on my recovery (thankfully without crutches now) there is a lot of work to be carried out in the 12 months ahead.
Nearly two years into the Covid pandemic and we are still facing restrictions, albeit minimal in England in comparison to the rest of the UK. With the fast rollout of the booster jab programme and the positive news about the severity of the omicron variant I am cautiously optimistic about the prospect of getting back to normality in the months ahead.
Without waiting for normality to resume there are going to be some major pieces of work from Government that will rightly interest many residents. Whether it’s the long-awaited Online Harms Bill to make sure everyone is safe online and impose penalties on social media companies who allow hatred to continue; or the Levelling Up White Paper to fully set out what the Government’s plans to improve previous forgotten areas of our country.
I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the last point to ensure it has a strong focus on adult education, improving skills and health inequalities.
Whilst these schemes are worked through, there are many more immediate concerns, the cost of living with food, and fuel bills rocketing needs to be tackled in a meaningful way. Labour’s plans to build on our green belt locally are currently being reviewed by inspectors with vote on the recommendation likely to take place in councils across Greater Manchester later this year.
This year as Chair of the cross-party groups on Alcohol Harm and Literacy I will be producing a Literacy Strategy and an Alcohol Strategy to take to the Government with the hope of seeing meaningful change. We need to do much more to tackle the challenges faced by the approximately 9 million people across the country who either can’t or struggle with their reading; whilst also trying to mitigate the issues of alcohol harm and the stigma around addiction.
After the year we’ve all just been through, with testing, multiple vaccinations, isolations, and lockdown, I genuinely feel that 2022 will be a much brighter year for us all. With that in mind, I hope that all readers had a very Merry Christmas, and that you have a happy, prosperous, and more importantly healthy New year.