Rossendale Free Press

Jake Berry MP for Rossendale


AS I walked my dog Lola this weekend down the Ogden from Helmshore to Irwell Vale I could see some of the local damage caused by Storm Arwen.

We have been fortunate here in Rossendale that the worst of this storm passed us by but I was reminded of how vulnerable we are to extreme weather events.

That’s why I’m pushing for further flood funding for Irwell Vale, Chatterton, Strongstry and other areas across the Valley to protect our communitie­s from damage of flooding.

I have been working with the Environmen­t Agency to bolster our local flood protection plans but unfortunat­ely there is no ‘simple solution.’

The Environmen­t

Agency have completed comprehens­ive surveys and come up with a flood defence proposal which will provide significan­t protection for the homes that are affected but the cost is approximat­ely £15 million. The good news is that funding of around £10.5 million has already been identified for the plans but we need to find an extra £4 million to fund the work and this something that I am continuing to raise with Ministers.

All local politician­s, regardless of our political persuasion­s, are working together on this issue. We are all doing our utmost to make this happen as quickly as possible to protect Irwell Vale, Strongstry and Chatterton.

I was also delighted to get my Booster jab this week. I am a huge believer and supporter of the UK’s world beating vaccinatio­n programme. The vaccines work, they have restored our freedoms and returned a sense of normality to our lives. The emergence of the new ‘Omicron’ variant from South Africa has, however, sent some of our politician­s and sections of the media into a doom and gloom ridden melt-down.

Yes, this new variant could prove to be more infectious and it could evade some of the protection that our vaccines give us, but the truth is that at the moment, we simply don’t know.

It will take weeks for the data to give us a clear indication of its impact, but with a record breaking percentage of the UK having received vaccinatio­ns we are better prepared and protected than we were for Delta.

We have always known that there will be more variants, but people need to learn to live with Covid and the Government needs to respond accordingl­y, with a measured response which I believe that for the moment it has done.

We must not start locking people up for Christmas and we must not have our liberties taken away from us again; that would absolutely be the wrong thing to do.

Earlier this week in the House of Commons I took the opportunit­y to grill the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove MP, about the Government’s ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ and Rossendale Council’s levelling up bid.

One of Rossendale’s biggest local problems is our poor transport connection­s. Most people in the Valley, including me, want to see Rossendale reconnecte­d to the national rail network with a rail line towards Manchester.

This remains a long-term goal, but we are making progress. Working together with the Council and local businesses we have been successful in securing funds from the Government’s Restoring Your Railways fund and we are currently working on a bid for substantia­l funding from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund.

I was pleased that Michael Gove’s response was positive, reaffirmin­g the Government’s commitment to East

Lancashire and the North.

Levelling up is a bit of a ‘buzz word’ at the moment but it needs to be more than just a slogan.

Northerner­s do not just want handouts from Westminste­r though.

We want solutions which will empower us and our families. It is vital to the North’s fortunes that we can take back control from London and decide our own future.

That’s why I am a supporter of full devolution in the North.

Having a powerful and accountabl­e Mayor, like Andy Burnham or Ben Houchen has worked well for areas like Greater Manchester and Teeside, why should Lancashire not do the same?

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