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MP Jo Churchill sees a bright future for west Suffolk

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In this, my final article of 2020, I wanted to reflect not only on the challenges we have faced, but also on some of the achievements, not least of which is the approval of the first vaccine this week.

The year has clearly been very different to what many of us hoped for at the start of the year and the dawning of a new decade, but I am sure that our future is bright.

This pandemic has undoubtedly demonstrated once again how vital the NHS is to our community. That is why I was delighted when we received government funding for a new hospital for Bury St Edmunds.

Jo Churchill
Jo Churchill

Planning for the build, both location and design, is currently taking place and will replace poor estate and provide a better patient environment for our growing town.

In addition, we have seen a welcome increase in the number of police on Suffolk’s streets and the delivery of new schools and school improvements throughout the constituency.

This year has been one tinged by Covid, but like many of us I have focused on other priorities too. These have included highlights such as bringing together agencies and stakeholders to improve the environment of the River Lark and other waterways in the constituency, setting up a taskforce to improve sporting facilities in Stowmarket, whilst continuing to assist individuals across the constituency with various issues.

I was also pleased to secure funding for Needham Market station, meaning access on the Ipswich bound Platform 2 will finally be upgraded as part of a programme to improve accessibility at stations. This follows Access for All Funding being secured for Bury St Edmunds Station and Stowmarket Station, ensuring everyone across our community will benefit from easier access to our rail network, when life returns to something nearer normal.

As we move into 2021, I am determined to continue to raise Bury St Edmunds’s voice in Westminster. This year has seen both national and local government focused on fighting coronavirus, whilst supporting the livelihoods of millions of people across the country. With the announcement on vaccines and mass testing, I hope we will be able to put this pandemic behind us and refocus on the priorities for our country, albeit while recognising the impact of Covid-19.

On Wednesday, Suffolk moved into Tier 2 restrictions, as we eased out of lockdown. Now we can begin to reopen parts of our economy, including retail, some leisure facilities, hairdressers and beauty salons. Hospitality can start to reopen; I know the guidance is a disappointment to some business owners and customers, but we must continue to follow the rules in order to bring down the number of positive cases locally. The tier level will be reviewed fortnightly and I hope we will rapidly find ourselves moved into tier 1.

Christmas is an important time of year for so many of us and the government has announced that between 23 and 27 December, up to three households can join together to form an exclusive Christmas ‘bubble’. I recognise that there will be some hard choices for families and friends over the coming weeks. There will be sadness if it is not possible to gather in the way we usually would but, with such positive developments on the horizon, let’s look forward. I hope that these new rules will allow constituents to have an enjoyable festive season and I would like to wish all everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

-- Jo Churchill is MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket

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