GORDON BIRTWISTLE MP: We need more young men to register as stem cell donors

LAST week I took the chance to take my annual holiday in the UK, spending a week in Whitby with Kathleen. It was lovely to get some sunshine and fresh air. I packed lots of waterproofs for the week, but was pleasantly surprised to have to buy factor 20 suncream, as the weather was superb. It’s now great to be back in the office, getting back into all the hard work which needs doing across Burnley and Padiham.

On Sunday I visited Greenhill Bowling Club’s fun day, a really enjoyable event. The three local councillors, Margaret Brindle, Charlie Bullas and I, have bought eight sets of junior bowls and six sets of ladies’ bowls for the club using Ward Opportunity Fund money. The club was having a bit of a problem with vandalism and decided they wanted to do something positive to give young people in the area something to do. They have, therefore, created a junior section and invited young people to go along and bowl. The funding has also meant a popular new ladies’ section could be set up, with 22 ladies playing on Tuesday afternoons.

On Bank Holiday Monday I visited Reedly Hallows Allotment barbecue, a really great community event. Later in the day I carried on with my visits to local industry, meeting staff at Sweetdreams, one of our fantastic local manufacturing companies. Sweetdreams has been around for more than 20 years, and I was very pleased to hear it is going from strength to strength, employing 170 local people. This impressive company manufactures divans and mattresses, producing an astonishing number of beds – more than 800 a day. It was great to hear this brilliant local firm is expanding, and is in the process of creating a £150,000 new assembly unit.

I also took the opportunity last week to get through the hundreds of casework emails and letters which come into my office every day. One of the biggest part of being an MP, a local councillor, or a community activist, is helping people with a multitude of issues. As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch if there is anything I can help you with. The issues I have been helping people with this week include: consumer issues, anti social behaviour, local health services, housing, financial problems, tax issues, tax credit problems, visa cases, and local transport. I have also been getting through lots of issues raised with me by the many local businesses I have met over my summer tour of local industry.

It was great to hear last week that the Treasury Select Committee has commended the Payments Council decision to save the cheque and our campaigning has paid off. Residents and businesses signed a petition to save our cheques earlier this year, and the Payment Council finally agreed to drop the current plans to phase out the cheque in July. Getting rid of cheques would have caused a great deal of inconvenience to small businesses, charities and many of the most vulnerable people in Burnley and Padiham, and I am pleased their voices have been heard, a victory for common sense.

You may remember, a few weeks ago I announced I would be joining the Anthony Nolan campaign to recruit stem cell donors to go on the national donor register to help save the lives of people with blood cancer. For many people with blood cancer, a stem cell transplant is their last chance of life. The target was laid out for each MP to recruit 10 new donors, which would go a long way towards reaching the national target of 10,000 new donors. I am delighted the people of Burnley have been doing our town proud, with Burnley being home to the second highest number of new donors to date. However, we are still only halfway towards our target and need more men aged 18 to 29 to join the campaign. It only takes a few minutes to join the register and may help save someone’s life.

I am very proud of the effort that has already come from Burnley and ope we will soon reach our target and maintain our proud position near the top of the table. To register go to www.anthonynolan.org/mp and enter the code ‘TA78’ and fill in the details – it will only take two minutes.