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At times, the past year has felt a bit like scrambling over a brutal assault course, littered with unexpected obstacles and with no clearly defined finish line. And with the news that Lincolnshire now faces Christmas under the harshest Tier 3 restrictions, it feels as if we are still a very long way from the end of the race – but I am so very pleased that the advent of the vaccines available in the UK should hopefully mean that the end is now in sight. As the Member of Parliament for Lincoln, I am acutely aware of how much of a struggle this year has been for some of my constituents.
Myself and my team at our constituency office hear daily of the challenges the pandemic has brought to every aspect of people’s lives, everything from the heart-breaking consequences of social isolation for elderly members of our community, to the devastating impact on our economy and local small and medium sized businesses. I also know from the hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails we receive, that despite these challenges, the people of our great historic city have shown extraordinary fortitude and resilience. Both myself and the Government are determined to match this fortitude with the support people need to receive to assist them over the approaching finish line.
That is why, ever since the first lockdown, central Government has made available an unprecedented range of financial support for employees, businesses and local authorities.
I recognise of course that these measures can only take the edge off the pain caused by COVID-19 and I am determined to do whatever I can as your representative in Government to ensure support reaches all constituents who need it. In Lincoln, small businesses are the backbone of many communities, families and our High Street. Unfortunately, despite our Government’s generous and far-reaching financial support packages, the support has not found its way to all who need it among some who are in this critical section of our local economy and community.
As a member of the recently constituted Blue-Collar Conservative Group, and through my time involved in politics in the past, I have demonstrated that I care deeply about the welfare and wellbeing of these individuals who are willing to take risks in striving to be entrepreneurial. That is why, over the past eight months, I have ensured representations made to me by constituents who have, perhaps through various circumstances or reasons beyond their control, unfairly received little, or no support compared to others, have been put before relevant Ministers and Departments, and I have raised the issue in the national media and with Cabinet Members and the Prime Minster in the House of Commons Chamber. In addition, I have asked a number of Parliamentary Questions calling for extra support for this sector of our economy who have fallen through the cracks in coronavirus relief, especially for those who have received little support since March, to help see them through.
I, along with some of my colleagues, suggested reclaiming the GBP1.9B received by large supermarkets, who clearly do not need it, to assist in funding this support. I will continue to lend my full weight to supporting Lincoln’s small businesses and do everything I can to make sure we find a path through to the other side of this crisis for all who have been adversely affected. Before signing off, I would like to end with some of the more positive issues I have been involved with this year.
The end of this tumultuous year that has presented many of us with so many difficulties, will also see the success of two key infrastructure projects that will provide a huge boost to our city. The first is that the GBP120m-plus Lincoln Eastern Bypass project will be open by Christmas; the second is that my long-term campaign to secure the development of the North Hykeham Relief Road, the final section of that Eastern Bypass, has also very recently been given the green light by the Department for Transport. Combined, these projects will bring a whole raft of benefits, from supporting the local economy and reducing congestion, to opening up new land for housing and employment opportunities, and enhancing the inter-city environment, whilst providing a circular ring road around our most-loved city.
As your elected representative in Government, it is my responsibility to focus not just on the immediate crisis due to the national and worldwide pandemic, but also on ensuring our wonderful city is in strong form to bounce back once this is over. What better symbol of the promise of a dynamic future for our city than these two major new infrastructure projects? I am proud to say these road improvements join several others I have campaigned for in recent years.
I have campaigned for these improvements by Putting Lincoln First over the last decade and a half, and I am rightly proud that they have now come to fruition be they rail or road – they have improved our city and the lives of all who live, work, visit and study in the constituency of Lincoln, Skellingthorpe, Bracebridge Heath and Waddington that I have the proud honour and privilege to represent as your Member of Parliament once again.
From myself and my family, here is wishing you all a happy Christmas and a bright new start and Christian good wishes as we approach the New Year.
Karl McCartney is the Conservative MP for Lincoln.