GORDON BIRTWISTLE, BURNLEY MP: People died so that we can vote

I hope everyone has enjoyed the Easter holidays and lovely weather – our parks, flowers and countryside really are looking at their best at this time of year. It’s always great getting out and about in Burnley and Padiham in the sunshine, knocking on doors and speaking with people, surrounded by views of Pendle Hill and our wonderful Pennine countryside.

Friday, 6th May 2011, 3:18 pm

It is election time again which is always a busy time for political activists! Whatever the results I hope there will be a good turnout this year – people have given their lives for the right to vote and we are really lucky to live in a democracy.

Good news came out during the week about the fantastic live music festival which is to take place in Towneley Park in the summer. Events like this are great for Burnley – it’s good local residents will be able to see such high profile acts, and excellent that trade will be drummed up for local businesses. Plans are for a family event on Saturday, August 13th, which hopes to draw up to 30,000 people to the park, and then for a second event, with acts aimed at an older audience for the Friday or Sunday. I wish the organisers the very best success – if it goes well, the event could become an annual one.

During the week I had a really positive meeting with Mike Wellock from Kirkwells, a new local company which has been set up by a group of former public sector workers. Mike explained that when they were faced with public sector cuts, they decided to take things into their own hands and set up their own company, which will provide town planning and sustainable development advice. I was extremely impressed by the initiative of these planning experts, whose business is already up and running at Lancashire Digital Technology Centre in Burnley, and I wish them the very best in their endeavours.

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I held a special advice surgery during the week at Rhode Island Coffee shop which was a real success – quite a few people turned up to raise issues with me. Along with my regular surgeries and hospital stand in the centre of town, I’m organising a number of extra drop-in advice surgeries across the next few months – look out for further details in this column.

I visited Toyota at their plant in Derby during the week for talks about manufacturing in the UK, and was really pleased to learn their spending in the UK is now approaching £300m. – investment which benefits a number of Burnley companies. It was concerning to learn during the week just how recent tragic events in Japan have had a knock-on effect on some British companies. Japanese infrastructure has been so badly damaged that some UK companies are unable to get specialist Japanese-made components, with some staff having to go on short time. This shows just how joined up and interdependent our world is – and how important it is to offer assistance to others in times of terrible disaster.

Finally, this week I have been reflecting on the fact that this time last year was the end of the long General Election campaign. It has been a huge privilege to serve as your MP this year and over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be reflecting on events this year – local and national.