Optimism for 2022 | Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham column

The Christmas period always seems to come just as quick as it goes. And here we now are in the first week of January wondering if we all blinked too fast.

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

I do hope every resident had a wonderful Christmas and New Year seeing loved ones, including those who worked throughout to keep us all safe.

For me, seeing in the new year brings with it a sense of optimism as I continue to do everything in my power to make Burnley, Padiham and all of our villages the best place to work, live and invest, especially as we battle through a worldwide pandemic.

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And having enjoyed a short time with my own family over the last couple of weeks I’ve been raring to go.

There is as ever plenty to be getting on with as I laid out in my column last week; delivering the transformational change we can effect with the £20 million of investment we’ve received through the Levelling Up Fund; getting the Pioneer Place development off the ground by lobbying the Government hard to plug the gap in funding; and seeing our very own Burnley College go from strength to strength as it again is recognised as a national leader, this time in the teaching of technological skills, which is being backed up by a further expansion of the site.

These are the issues that will make a huge difference to the life opportunities of our family and friends within our borough.

And is exactly the type of message I’ve been taking down to Parliament when discussing how we level up Burnley and Padiham.

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The first week of the new year has however presented challenges. On New Year’s Eve I was informed that I had tested positive for covid, albeit with mild symptoms thanks to the three doses of the vaccine that I’ve received.

However, like many residents, that’s meant I’ve been unable to leave my home as I fulfil my period of isolation. And given Parliament returned on Wednesday of this week I was unfortunately not able to attend for the start of the new session.

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Something which was all the more disappointing given that I was due to once again bring our borough to the attention of the Prime Minister in the first PMQs of the year.

Rest assured though that I’ll be trying to catch the Speaker’s eye next week, so I don’t miss the opportunity completely.

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As those who follow me online will have seen I have continued working throughout isolation, responding to the many residents who have contacted me about a variety of issues from housing needs to queries over legislation currently before Parliament.

This week has primarily been focused on this task, alongside planning out post isolation meetings and keeping in touch with my team both through telephone and video calls.

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Watching PMQ’s this week, albeit from afar, it was clear that Covid will continue to dominate the political debate.

Not just because of the differing approach to managing the outbreak between the Government and opposition parties, but also because of the need to manage NHS pressures so those who need non-Covid care can still get it.

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As the Prime Minister reiterated on Wednesday, by taking limited but targeted action in December through Plan B we have been able to avoid the full lockdown many on the opposition benches were calling for only a couple of weeks ago and which other UK nations chose to take.

Maintaining this position is absolutely essential. Keeping our businesses open, children in schools and, as the announcement from the Transport Secretary did this week, making international travel easier.

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This country is moving forwards in a positive direction despite the headwinds, and is now one of the most open economies in the world thanks to the booster programme which has given so many the protection they need against Omicron.

I’ve said throughout that vaccinations are the best way out of the pandemic, and I applaud all those who are working around the clock to get jabs in arms.

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Their assistance in tackling Covid is immense.

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to being able to leave my home for the first time this year where I can meet family friends and residents once again.

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And crucially be back in Parliament next week to give Burnley and Padiham the strong voice we need in Westminster.

As a last note, for those who have still to receive their booster jab, please do either book in online, or turn up at either the St Peter’s Centre or Daneshouse Community Centre, where walk ins are available daily.

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Happy New Year and stay safe.