Stourbridge News Column, 14th November 2018

Stourbridge News Column – Thursday 14th November

The last couple of months up until Christmas are almost always the busiest of the year, both in Westminster and Stourbridge. This year certainly looks no different and made even more so by having to travel. Last week, I spent the early part of last week in Lisbon, attending a large technology conference called Websummit.  Britain is exceptionally well placed across so much of the tech industry, and the sector attracts more investment here than it does in any other European country. But there is always more to do, and I am anything but complacent about the future.

Shortly after, I flew over to the Isle of Man to discuss digital strategy at the British and Irish Council summit, before returning at the weekend to pay my respects along with thousands of people in Stourbridge to the fallen, on the centenary of Armistice Day. It was heartening to see all the services so well attended and I was honoured to lay wreaths at Christ Church Lye and Mary Stevens Park. We remember all those who gave their lives so we might live in freedom.

I have been contacted by many residents about plans to build on Saltwells Nature Reserve. Having looked at the proposal in detail, I have now decided to oppose it. This is not a decision I have taken lightly, because I recognise that we need to build more houses whenever and wherever possible. But Saltwells Nature Reserve is a beautiful site that has been enjoyed for generations. These new dwellings and access routes will damage trees and woodland and risk spoiling local wildlife habitats. It is simply not the right place to be building, and the quantity, size and affordability of the proposed development do not even fit with local priorities. I will be making a formal objection shortly.

The Aspiration Stourbridge Careers Fair is this Thursday from 4:30pm until 6pm at Glasshouse College. We have filled the room with over 20 organisations including Google, the NHS, the Civil Service, TeachFirst, the Law Society and the Bank of England. It’s open to everyone thinking about what they want to do next after their GCSEs and A Levels, whether that is university, an apprenticeship or straight into employment. I am so very sorry not to be able to attend myself. There was a ballot in Parliament last week which resulting in my having to answer the closing debate on Thursday at 5pm. If you are, or if you know, a young person who wants to learn more about their career options, please do come along. Parents and guardians are, of course, welcome too.

Finally, I want to pay tribute to Geoff Hill, who died earlier this month aged 91. Geoff was an amazing philanthropist, and a great citizen of Stourbridge. He donated more than £500,000 to charities and other worthy causes and was a huge supporter of the Mary Stevens Hospice and Age Concern. Indeed, he was most deservedly awarded an MBE in 2004 for this fundraising. I will miss Geoff and I extend my heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends, especially to his wife Sue.

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