At a time when politics is often so divisive, it is important to remember areas where people have worked together for the common good. One such example is pensions auto-enrolment.
This was legislated for by the last Labour Government in 2008 and put into effect by the Coalition Government from 2012. As a result at least 10 million more people in the UK are now building up pensions additional to their state pension with contributions from both employers and employees. There is still much more to be done on pensions but this cross-party working is making a positive difference.
Another example is funding for the National Health Service. Underneath all the political noise from the front benches, ordinary Members of Parliament from all parties have been working together to persuade the Government to invest more in health. The result was seen last year with an increase in NHS England funding announced from £114.60 billion last year (2018/19) to £149.01 billion in 2023/24.
Currently, there is much cross-party work going on to sort out funding for social care, education and local government. As the coordinator for the Staffordshire group of MPs, I regularly write letters to the Chancellor and individual ministers – signed by all local MPs – setting out clearly the needs of our schools, colleges and councils. Some have more effect than others. But there is no doubt that the sight of local MPs from all parties coming together in common cause for their constituents has an effect.
I have seen that locally in the case of County Hospital. The recent reassurances from the NHS and Health Secretary over the future of A&Es at County, Burton and Telford are welcome. I personally have greatly valued the public support from local MPs of all parties for the A&E at County. It would be easy for MPs to concentrate on their local concerns and not worry about those out of their immediate area. But this has not been the case. My colleagues from Stoke-on-Trent, Labour and Conservative, have stood up for services at County Hospital just as Bill Cash MP, Amanda Milling MP and I have supported the vital importance of Royal Stoke, especially the excellent Major Trauma Centre.
I will not be standing at the next General Election, whenever that comes. However I will continue to try to support those organisations and people in our county and country who work to bring people together in the interest of us all.
Two of the many organisations which I have seen doing just that in the past month are St Leonard’s Rugby Club and the Universal Sports Club in Doxey. They have come together to help provide a home for the rugby club. Just a few years ago, the Universal Club was due to be demolished. Now, due to the hard work of its members and local people, it is thriving and providing a home to one of our great local community sports clubs.