The House of Commons resumed sitting this week and I am pleased that the sensible decision has been taken not to break again for party conferences this year. It’s been my view since I was elected that the country is not sufficiently interested in the conferences to justify a three week break for Parliament and I hope that we do not go back to it. If we ran them all at the same time they could still be a useful and informative place for those interested to take part and I am sure the news channels would cope with the schedule.
The main event though is our schools reopening. I know that it is not straightforward but teachers have been working incredibly hard to make sure we can get children back in the classrooms safely. It’s a huge step in getting back to normal for children and parents. Everyone’s experience of the last few months has been different depending on their circumstances but not having the structure and support of school has been very tough on families and I hope this year’s “back to school” time is a happy occasion for all involved. It will certainly be a positive step in getting the economy back on track and a relief for working parents.
Schools reopening is really part of a longer process of helping our children through this time. The Department for Education is already looking into how to best run public exams next year. The Labour Party have called for them to be pushed back possibly until July to give pupils more time and this is a fair suggestion. The Government has not been overwhelmed by constructive proposals from the opposition benches for a while now but particularly in areas like education we need a collaborative approach. I will continue to press in particular for everything possible to be done to catch up for children with special educational needs, to get education and healthcare plans in place and speed up assessments. These children and their families have had an especially challenging time.
One of the ways in which we can start to balance the books is by reorganising our local services and setting up unitary authorities. Analysis by the County Councils Network suggests this could save £3billion over 5 years which would be very welcome. It would also be more straightforward for Somerset people to have one local authority especially for a few areas for which responsibility is not entirely clear.
Inevitably there is wider discussion now about how we do start to pay off the cost of the last few months. Schemes like the furlough job retention scheme have been very expensive. However, we need to be very careful that tax rises do not damage our recovery and this is a point I will continue to make very firmly to the Chancellor in advance of the next Budget.
As always, if I can be of any help or if you would like to get in touch please do call 01935314321 or email firstname.lastname@example.org