It has been another very busy week, both locally and in Westminster. The week began with a quick catch up with the PM where we discussed my work encouraging more people to get back into work – one of my key goals as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The jobs market is tight (unemployment is at a near 40-year low at 3.6%) but there are still plenty of job opportunities out there. In fact, the number of people out of work in the UK is almost identical to the number of vacancies – around 1.2million and many local businesses here in Central Devon, from hospitality to adult social care, are crying out for staff. I am working hard to do what I can to help them out.
I was also able to hand Rishi a special Christmas card which featured a drawing by Joseph Charlesworth (9) from Bow Community Primary School who won the annual competition to design my Christmas card with a fantastic picture of Larry the Cat outside No. 10 and wishing the country a Merry Christmas. The PM loved it and Joseph’s artwork is now on display in Downing Street. Congratulations also to Ben Ruff (9) from Hatherleigh Community Primary School and Daria Viushynska (8) from Ilsington Primary School who were the two runners-up. Art is such an important part of a child’s education and thank you to all the schools and parents who encouraged pupils to take part. I am also grateful to Ashburton Post Office for sponsoring this year’s competition.
Back in Central Devon I visited Chagford for my first tour of the new primary school, which opened its doors in 2018. I visited the old school twice and the new facilities are a huge improvement. The school had a very positive Ofsted inspection this year and I was impressed with the Year 6 pupils I spoke to and who asked me some great questions about Parliament and being an MP. It was then up to Copplestone near Crediton to join Mid Devon District Councillor Stuart Penny in planting a tree in the Dave Pullen Memorial Field as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy. I was very proud to take part in the initiative, which began last year with the planting of one million trees for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. Our small tribute recognises our late Queen’s extraordinary service to our country and to the Commonwealth. Stuart and I also discussed a number of local issues, including a new shopfront enhancement scheme in Crediton, with Mid Devon District Council making £15,000 available to local businesses to upgrade and repair shopfronts in the town centre. A great example of how councils can support local businesses, give high streets a facelift and help increase up local trade.
For more from Mel visit www.melstridemp.com or follow him on twitter @MelJStride.