‘We’ll thrive what­ever is thrown at us in 2019’

The Sentinel - - VOICE OF THE SENTINEL - Ruth Smeeth – Stoke-on-trent North MP

THE new year is an op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on the highs and lows of the last 12 months and to re­fo­cus on the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties fac­ing all of us.

But when it comes to pol­i­tics, how do you be­gin to ex­plain a year like 2018W when there were too many sto­ries for each news pro­gramme and the world seemed to have been turned up­side down?

It’s fair to say it’s been a year of ups and downs, for our coun­try and our city. Lo­cally, we played host to the mag­nif­i­cent Weep­ing Win­dow Poppy Dis­play, wel­com­ing thou­sands of tourists to our city in the process.

The ‘ay up duck hol­i­day pro­gramme en­gaged thou­sands of fam­i­lies across the city over the school hol­i­days.

And our chil­dren had the unique op­por­tu­nity to learn about sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing at our three-day sci­ence fair to com­mem­o­rate the 100th an­niver­sary of the RAF.

But the year was not with­out its chal­lenges for too many in our com­mu­nity. We lost fam­ily and friends, some in tragic cir­cum­stances in­clud­ing Ryan Evans, who re­mains con­stantly in our thoughts.

The grow­ing mon­key dust epi­demic, of which our city has been the epi­cen­tre, is blight­ing too many lives and needs re­newed fo­cus. And for too many peo­ple, gen­uine poverty and even home­less­ness are on the rise, ex­ac­er­bated by this Con­ser­va­tive Gov­ern­ment’s so­cial se­cu­rity poli­cies.

We had Royal births and Royal Wed­dings. We wel­comed home World Cup and In­vic­tus he­roes and hero­ines, and marked the cen­te­nary of the Armistice.

We’ve had drones over Gatwick, and no end of dron­ing on in Par­lia­ment. And through all of this, we have Brexit.

The is­sue that no one can ig­nore, which will come to a head this week and which this Gov­ern­ment is prov­ing in­ca­pable of prop­erly de­liv­er­ing.

So 2018 has given us plenty to sift through, and no limit of les­sons to be learned. Per­son­ally, 2018 had some chal­lenges, but I’m proud of the work my team and I have done to de­liver for my con­stituents and for the Pot­ter­ies.

It is of­ten said that sta­tis­tics don’t tell a full story, and it’s true. You can’t re­duce peo­ples lives to per­cent­ages.

But num­bers don’t al­ways have to hide the truth, they can il­lu­mi­nate it too. So in that spirit, I’d like to take this op­por­tu­nity to share my year with you in num­bers.

My team and I have now dealt with 13,134 in­di­vid­ual cases and is­sues for lo­cal res­i­dents since my elec­tion.

Prob­lems ranged from headaches with our coun­cils (one in seven of ev­ery is­sue raised with me), to strug­gling with hous­ing qual­ity (one in ev­ery eight) to peo­ple who need help with their ben­e­fits and sup­port, in­clud­ing the roll-out of the aw­ful Uni­ver­sal Credit (one in 12).

But it wasn’t just case­work that oc­cu­pied my time. I think it’s the duty of a lo­cal MP to get out there and dis­cover what’s both­er­ing peo­ple first hand.

That’s why I knocked on over 5,000 doors last year to hear what mat­ters to peo­ple in Stoke-on-trent North and Kids­grove.

As well as my con­stituency surg­eries ev­ery month, I’ve also held monthly cof­fee meet­ings through­out the year, talk­ing na­tional and lo­cal is­sues with you.

The favourite part of my job though is talk­ing to young peo­ple, so I’ve vis­ited 11 pri­mary and sec­ondary schools in the last year across Stoke-on-trent North and Kids­grove speak­ing to hun­dreds of kids (and an­swer­ing some rather in­ter­est­ing ques­tions!).

But my job is to fight for you in West­min­ster, and in the last year I’ve spo­ken 49 times in the House of Com­mons on ev­ery­thing from shoddy house build­ing to na­tional se­cu­rity and child food poverty.

I’ve been fight­ing your cor­ner ev­ery sin­gle day, bat­tling for more in­vest­ment in our schools and hos­pi­tals and stand­ing up for our pub­lic ser­vices.

I’ve in­tro­duced a Bill in Par­lia­ment to sup­port our lo­cal ceram­ics in­dus­try, to make sure the table­ware sold here in the UK has a back stamp to let peo­ple know it’s made it Eng­land.

And I’m try­ing des­per­ately to hold this Gov­ern­ment to ac­count and to help se­cure a Brexit which works for lo­cal peo­ple.

So as we be­gin 2019, I don’t want to make any pre­dic­tions about what’s go­ing to hap­pen in the months ahead.

But the one thing I am con­fi­dent about is that what­ever is thrown at us this year, we will tackle it with gusto and thrive to­gether as a com­mu­nity.

Be­cause in un­cer­tain times, the one thing we can be cer­tain about is the po­ten­tial of the Pot­ter­ies.

HIGHS AND LOWS: The Weep­ing Win­dow poppy in­stal­la­tion at Mid­dle­port Pot­tery, and in­set, the rise of home­less­ness and Eng­land’s World Cup suc­cess.

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