Happy new year to all my friends and constituents! I hope the year ahead will be peaceful and prosperous.
But it hasn’t got off to a great start. Despite the great progress made over the past year, with new vaccines and treatments available to tackle covid, the rapid spread of the omicron variant is once again placing huge pressure on the NHS. This week, 17 Greater Manchester hospitals, including Trafford General, announced a pause in non-critical treatment. GPs are overstretched, and constituents repeatedly tell me of the struggle to get appointments. Meanwhile, the start of the new term in January sees thousands of school staff off sick or isolating and children out of class – just like January last year.
On Wednesday, our first day back in Parliament after the Christmas break, the Prime Minister made a statement to MPs about the situation. Rules are changing once again, including in relation to the requirement to take a lateral flow or PCR test, self isolation and travel arrangements. I know how confusing this is for many of my constituents, and it also creates uncertainty for business. If learning to live with covid means constant changes to rules, hospitals unable to treat patients, pharmacies running out of lateral flow tests, and children being sent home from school, it really isn’t good enough.
But if the government is failing to play its part, I do want to thank everyone who has helped to limit the spread of the disease by following the guidelines, wearing a mask in public places, and getting vaccinated and having the booster if you’re eligible. If you haven’t yet had the vaccine or booster, please, please do go along and do so. There’s loads of evidence now that unvaccinated people are much more at risk of hospitalisation and serious illness. The vaccine doesn’t just help keep you safe – by reducing pressure on the NHS, it helps everyone.
The very first debate to take place in parliament at the start of the new year was about problems experienced by new homebuyers. For me, this was also a deja vu experience – I led a debate on the subject almost exactly two years ago to the day, and so it was very disappointing to find myself back on my feet raising the same issues on behalf of my constituents as I had in 2020. In fact, MPs from across the country, and cross-party, came to the debate to report similar problems: developers failing to complete building work properly or safely, excessive charges imposed by management companies, a lack of redress for homebuyers, warranties proving worthless, and the powerlessness of local authorities. We won’t be giving up on this, and as we expect new legislation and government announcements in the coming months, I’ll continue to take every opportunity I can to press for a better deal for homeowners.
Finally, I’ve heard from a number of constituents recently about problems with our postal service. This does seem to be a problem in various parts of the country, including a number of areas in Greater Manchester. I’ve arranged a meeting next week with Royal Mail bosses to try to get to the bottom of what’s going on, and will report back after that meeting.