GORDON BIRTWISTLE (LIB-DEM MP FOR BURNLEY): Growing and cooking your own vegetables

FOR the past few weeks we have had a number of work experience students spending time in my Westminster and constituency offices.

All the students have been keen to learn more about how Parliament works and the placement is a great opportunity for them to get an insight into what happens in an MP’s office. I am sure all they all are going to have a bright future ahead of them and I was proud to show my colleagues in Parliament what bright and talented youngsters we have in Burnley. We are always happy to take people on work experience so contact my office if you are interested.

Last week, as part of the Industry and Parliament Trust, I spent a morning with Total at their offices in Canary Wharf. The scheme gives Parliamentarians an insight into certain industries. I chose to learn about deep sea oil exploration for my placement as energy security is a crucially important issue at present and is going to become even bigger in future.

During the trip I discussed with Total the massive investment into oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, engineering problems they were encountering and how they were overcoming these issues. I also spoke with them about how engineering companies in Burnley and across the UK can become involved with this £6bn project.

I spent a busy Thursday, Friday and Saturday last week in the constituency office in St James’s Row, catching up on casework and meeting residents.

I also visited some fantastic local projects on Friday morning: the Pennine Lancashire Community Farm in March Street and the ACERS Centre in Swindon Road. Both projects have been boosted by the Big Lottery fund awards – which invests in organisations doing positive work in the community.

Both these schemes I saw do a lot of good work in our communities. I would also like to thank the Big Lottery Fund for investing in these projects – and hope to visit even more successful new schemes in the coming years.

At the ACERS Centre I saw the excellent service they provide as part of the School Food Trust’s Let’s Get Cooking programme, which – supported by a £20m. grant from the Big Lottery Fund – has created the country’s largest network of healthy cooking clubs based in schools and reached 1.7 million people so far.

I was impressed by how well this project was run and enjoyed making chilli with some of the children who benefit from the service, seeing how they benefit from learning to cook. Schemes like this give something back to the community and the work they do with the young children is really valued by all involved. The children I met were great and I enjoyed eating the chilli we made together for dinner.

Next I visited the Burnley-based Pennine Lancashire Community Farm which offers residents and community groups opportunities to grow and learn about fruit, vegetables and plants. As a keen gardener with my own allotment, I enjoyed visiting this project and seeing how the community comes together to learn about and grow vegetables and plants.

I was pleased to hear more good news about funding from the Lottery – with the announcement that Gannow is to receive an extra £1m. investment from the the Big Lottery Project, to support community activities and make the neighbourhood a better place to live - great news for Gannow, and a boost for our town.

At my monthly meeting with Charlie Briggs and Steve Rumbelow, the Leader and Chief Executive of Burnley Council, we discussed the progress we are making on getting millions of pounds of investment into our town: with the direct rail link to Manchester, new station at Manchester Road, University Technical College, Burnley Bridge Industrial Estate, and the £9m. investment in Burnley Hospital’s emergency unit.

My surgery at Padiham Leisure Centre was a busy one, as was my advice stall on Saturday in Burnley town centre. I have a regular advice stall every Saturday in Burnley town centre between 10-30 a.m. and 12-30 p.m. – come along for a chat if there is anything you’d like to discuss with me. I will do my best to be of assistance.