It's time for us now to begin living with Covid | Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham column

Having endured two years of a global pandemic, where the chief focus of the government has been supporting and protecting residents from a deadly virus, it’s now time for us to adjust to living with Covid.

And after this week’s Parliamentary recess, the Prime Minister is expected to bring forward a plan to do just that.

Every one of us has felt the effects of this pandemic. But with the data now showing Covid rates and hospitalisations falling, and the vast majority having received protection through vaccination, now is the time to kickstart our economic recovery, and here in Burnley and Padiham, continue building back much better from Covid.

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When I was elected back in 2019 I promised that I’d bring a different style of politics to our borough.

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

One where Burnley and Padiham becomes a focus of the government, known in Parliament and promoted for all the positives it has.

And even through the pandemic we’ve seen major progress on some of my key pledges.

We’ve secured £20 million out of the Levelling Up Fund to bring major improvements from the Turf to Town; work has started on a new £23 million state-of-the-art leisure complex at Pioneer Place, Burnley College has been going from strength to strength, getting the investment it needs to deliver world class training and apprenticeships, the regeneration of Padiham High Street is well underway, and progress is being made on the long overdue flood defences.

But there’s so much to do. And given the Government is moving to focus its energies on a post covid future, now is the time to put our borough front and centre.

That’s something that has been in the forefront of my mind in every meeting I’ve attended, every event I’ve hosted and each and every time I stand up in Parliament and talk about Burnley and Padiham.

Because for me, local representation that works hard for residents, and ultimately delivers is key. And that’s exactly where my focus will remain.

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That’s not to mention the thousands of local residents I’ve spoken to over the past two years.

The schools; the police; the local organisations like Burnley Youth Theatre and the Empire Trust; our local farmers; and all the businesses that I’ve visited to take their message down to Parliament of what they need to thrive.

And the weekly surgeries where I’ve made myself the most accessible MP we’ve ever had. In my view that’s what being a strong representative looks like.

All this has only been made possible by countless hours lobbying for what our area needs.

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Having a plan for improvements and rather than continuously moaning, working constructively with a Government who wants to see areas like ours levelled up too.

I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved over the last two years.

We spent £400 billion fighting the pandemic.

The furlough schemes, business grants, self-employment support, VAT reductions - they all helped our local businesses at a time of national crisis.

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But now is the time to turbo charge the levelling up agenda that I was elected to deliver. Improving every area of life in Burnley and Padiham – from health outcomes, educational opportunities and a real focus on the people’s priorities to make our streets safer.

As we come out of the pandemic, I’ll be working to see a resurgence of our local businesses, with a smaller state restored and people empowered to make positive

changes in their own lives.

Because that’s what will ultimately lead to better outcomes for individuals within our borough; ensuring that the same opportunities exist here as anywhere else within the UK.

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In this task I’m making sure that we have government on side.

Last week travel restrictions were relaxed further, providing a boost not just for families who need a holiday, but our world leading aerospace sector who benefit from planes being in the air.

And come next week, provided the data continues its encouraging trend, we will see the end of all Covid regulations in England, restoring our vital freedoms, and setting us on course to create a thriving local economy – a month earlier than expected thanks in large part to the government’s decision to invest heavily in vaccinations.

The desire to get the economy firing on all cylinders is a view shared by colleagues and I’m looking forward to getting back to Parliament next week to make sure that we continue to have a strong voice at the table, pushing for our borough.