If one thing can be said with certainty, it is that Stratford residents must now be very familiar with the ballot box. This year’s county elections were closely followed by the snap General Election, and both took place against the backdrop of last year’s historic referendum.
I am delighted and honoured to have been returned in June with my highest ever share of the vote. Whether you voted for me and my party or not, I think we can all commend the fair and well-mannered way in which all the candidates’ campaigns were run and be proud of the high turnout we saw once again in Stratford.
The result of an election or referendum delights and disappoints almost in equal measure. As an MP for such a judicious constituency, my inbox is always full of inquiries that reflect this mixture of opinion. The issue that has this year dominated the subject lines is, perhaps unsurprisingly, our withdrawal from EU institutions. It is therefore pleasing that the Government has made good progress on this issue, particularly towards the end of the year, and remains firmly committed to making a success of the decision to leave the EU.
Earlier this month, the UK and EU published a formal progress report on the negotiations so far. The agreement guarantees the rights of the EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in other EU states, provides a framework for addressing Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances, and clarifies our financial obligations upon leaving. The joint report has allowed negotiations to move on to the next phase where future trading arrangements will be decided. Looking forward, it is these negotiations that will likely dominate the political agenda in 2018.
Having played a part in making Stratford’s chronic traffic problems a priority for our local authorities to address, I am delighted that a £3.5 million scheme for improvements on the Birmingham Road was secured in October. £2.4 million of this will come from a direct Government grant and the remainder will be covered by Warwickshire County Council’s own investment fund. Furthermore, we now have a final transport strategy for the Stratford area after a consultation process that spanned the earlier part of the year. I want to once again pay tribute to the sterling efforts of the councillors and officers involved in delivering this.
To complement this good news for our local infrastructure, the Home Office announced a £450 million injection into our national police funding at the close of the year that could boost Warwickshire Police’s budget by £2.9 million in 2018/19. We have sadly seen higher crime rates in Warwickshire according to the latest figures, so this funding will be vital in ensuring our brilliant police force has the funding it needs to keep us safe.
As 2017 draws to a close, the media spotlight is once again shining on the appalling abuse that so many in public life receive. Last week alone, many of my colleagues received death threats simply for voting according to their consciences. Whilst some of our constituents may disagree with our views, there are no MPs across any of the parties whose actions and parliamentary votes do not accord with their own view of what is best for those they are elected to represent and the country. We are so fortunate to live in a democracy where this holds true.
It is on this positive note that I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2018.