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Since Conference Recess at the beginning of the month, it really does not feel like we have stopped throughout October. Parliament has been especially busy as we have tried to make up for time lost during the pandemic. Last week, I oversaw the Second Reading of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill in the Commons. I’m proud that the Bill will extend and strengthen protection for pets, farm animals and kept will animals. The UK has a long history of leading the way on animal welfare and it is great to be part of this tradition.
It has been a bumper month of visits in Banbury. I was delighted to visit chartered accountants Whitley Stimpson in recognition of their 90th anniversary. I met directors Martin Anson and Ian Parker to talk about the firm’s work in the community. It is a remarkable achievement to have served the people of Banbury and beyond for all this time. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting DPA Lighting Consultants at their Oxfordshire Studio in Deddington too. They design lighting installations for everything from housing and museums, public buildings and hotels. I met Partner Nick Hoggett, who told me more about their exciting projects including work on the Imperial War Museum. I also made a visit to Lockbund Foundry & Gallery where I met sculptors Simon Allison and Jane Hamilton. They first established the foundry in Cropredy in 1993 and now produce their own sculptures on site, as well as providing fabrication and casting services for other artists. I was interested to hear that they are currently working on a Covid memorial sculpture for Barnsley Borough Council as a fantastic tribute to key workers.
It was great to see Banbury United beat Bath City 1-0 to progress through to the FA Cup First Round earlier in the month. The Puritans welcome League Two opponents Barrow AFC to the Spencer Stadium on Saturday which I will be eagerly watching. The game will be televised on ITV4 with Banbury approximately receiving £50,000 in broadcasting fees. I know that this extra money will go a long way in developing the club further and supporting the wider community.
With winter fast approaching, we need to make sure that our vaccine shield is as strong as possible as the weather turns colder. More than 230,000 jabs have been administered in North Oxfordshire alone which is a tremendous achievement. Vaccines offer high levels of protection against Covid, but immunity reduces over time. It is so important that those eligible come forward and get their booster jabs to increase their protection for the coming months. As of this week, Covid booster jabs will be available at walk-centres without needing to make an appointment.
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The news that Sir David Amess MP had been killed was devastating to us all. David died doing what he loved most; helping his constituents. He served the people of Essex for 38 years and was a wonderful champion of Southend.
When I got the news that David had been attacked, I was in the middle of my own surgery in Bicester Sainsbury’s. I can’t imagine doing my job without regular and fairly open access to my constituents. I’ll continue to think about how to manage this best and take advice where appropriate.
Only the evening before, I was at The Red Cow at Chesterton as part of my really successful Pub Tour. I always enjoy speaking to constituents in their local pub. We discussed everything from the Great Wolf development and the proposed Siemens development, to local care homes and women’s safety.
This month I’ve had some really good visits in Bicester. I visited Skills Beyond School who are a leading education specialist organisation. I first met Director Jock and Marketing Coordinator Hannah back in the summer at the Banbury temporary job centre. Hannah is currently employed on the Government’s brilliant Kickstart Scheme. It is a way for businesses of all sizes to provide a 6-month fully funded job opportunity for young people aged 16 to 24. It was great to catch up again and I particularly enjoyed discussing their work on prisoner education and rehabilitation.
I was pleased that all pupils were able to return to schools for the new academic year. During a visit to Bicester School this month, I spoke with students about the impact of lockdowns on their mental wellbeing. The pandemic has been particularly tough on our young people and their development. I understand concerns about knowledge gaps for Year 11 students which is why I welcome that a £3 billion academic catch-up programme has been put together by the Department for Education.
I also enjoyed visiting St Mary’s Catholic Primary School. I met children in the reception class and also those in Years 5 and 6, who all told me they were glad to be back at school. I was so impressed with their knowledge of an MP’s role, and they all asked such fantastic questions.
As I write this, the approval of the Heyford Park Pharmacy has just been announced. This is a well-deserved victory for the local community who have campaigned tirelessly. The pharmacy will become an important point of local primary care, serving the growing community of Heyford Park. Residents will be able to pick up their prescriptions closer to home, rather than having to make trips to Bicester or Deddington. The plans also include for the pharmacy to offer seasonal flu jabs, as well as some GP consultations and nursing appointments on-site. The pharmacy should open sometime next year.