Much of British media at the moment (understandably) focuses on Brexit. It’s true that my work as an elected member of the cross-party Select Committee for Leaving the EU, working to respect the Referendum and leave the EU without damaging lives or jobs, takes up a lot of time.
But there is a great deal else happening that is not Brexit related, which the media rarely covers. Let me give some examples.
We’ve created a new Veterans ID Card for ex Armed Forces to access services, and given Veterans with mental health issues priority for social housing. Veterans who might need support can contact the Veterans’ Gateway here https://www.veteransgateway.org.uk/.
The government has agreed to fund a new Homeless Hub in both Gloucester and Cheltenham, which will enable our (reduced number of) homeless and rough sleepers to have access to the right services for complex needs. And within the additional £20 billion extra for the NHS we’ve funded mental health specialists for 370 schools in a series of trials.
We’re also increasing the maximum sentence for animal cruelty cases, and criminalising attacks against service animals like police dogs. At the same time as toughening up laws on knives and against drones at airports, we will continue to explore alternatives to short prison sentences, especially for women.
Nor have we forgotten about the environment. Since 1990, we’ve cut emissions by more than 40 per cent, and on a per person basis, this means we have reduced emissions faster than any other G7 nation. We’ve banned the sale of products with microbeads, moved to reduce plastic waste and have brought forward strong animal welfare standards. These are government-led initiatives, but working cross-party in Select Committees and All Party Groups can also build a consensus that government then acts on.
That’s how Alex Chalk (MP for Cheltenham) and I got the law changed on stalking, how a report I co-chaired in 2017 changed the rules on Supported Housing, and how a Bill Committee I was on last month agreed changes to Tenants Fees and deposits that will reduce fees for millions of renters.
In that same cross-party spirit, I recently proposed changes to the rules on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to help those who’ve received back payments. Ministers are working on a solution for this.
Meanwhile locally my project list for Gloucester has about 30 issues on it at any one time. Projects like our new Bus Station are complete, and although we have an additional car park and new entrance off Great Western Road, the regeneration of our Rail Station has still got a long way to go.
Others there include working with Gloucester City Football Club to make sure that New Year’s Day sees football back at Meadow Park: and to make sure that new Health Centres in the City Centre and Hucclecote move forward as successfully as the recently opened Kingsway Health Centre. I first raised the possibility of that with the NHS in 2008, so these things take time.
And having helped create the Gloucester History Trust to deliver our History Festival, I am delighted that 18 months of deliberations has now led to the creation of HaVinG - our city’s new charity - to help the homeless into a life of purpose. Bishop Rachel and I are joint patrons, we have exciting plans ahead and I hope that my constituents will donate to this rather than giving cash to those begging, which can fuel addictions. More details on my fundraising page are here https://www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/richardgraham-cc19
Lastly, however important and complicated Brexit is (very): and however exciting big regeneration projects and festivals are, our city is only as good as we look. So while we admire the new Cathedral garden, and are about to admire the new look of St Mary de Crypt, we’ve got to get on top of litter, wherever it is. I’ll be posting details of litter picks on my Facebook page soon. See https://bit.ly/2B6k9Or and my tweets (@RichardGrahamUK) and come and join me - this is something we can all do!