11 JAN 2017

Star Column - 10th January 2017

"The New Year has brought some immediate good news with reports showing that our economy grew by 2.2 per cent last year – more than any other G7 country, including Germany and the USA. The fundamentals of our economy are solid which is reassuring as we move into a period of negotiation with the EU on our future trade deal. The Prime Minister has said that she will set out our next steps soon and we know that our future deal on business will be critical for our long term prosperity.

Parliament returns this week with a very busy schedule, so I was pleased to fit in some visits to schools and meetings on education, the NHS and Sizewell C before returning. I spoke to our county council about all the schools in the constituency, including some of the factors affecting the primary school assessments. I followed that up with a chat with the Regional Schools Commissioner about the academies and free school in Suffolk Coastal, which are ever increasing. I visited Farlingaye High School and Felixstowe Academy. It was my first time meeting Dr Andy Sievewright at Farlingaye High School, following the retirement of Sue Hargadon. Sue led the school to record exam successes, outstanding Ofsted ratings and made Farlingaye one of the most consistently top performing schools in the county so Dr Sievewright has big shoes to fill. It was useful to understand his priorities for the future of Farlingaye and more widely for our part of Suffolk.

At Felixstowe Academy, it was good to see Mr Williams for the second time with a good notch of results under his belt and clear changes made at the school. The passion is clearly undimmed though he pointed out this would be the challenging year, helping everyone at Felixstowe Academy to fulfil their potential by being systematically diligent at teaching and learning day in, day out. I was pleased to hear that applications had increased for the coming year – a vote of confidence in the academy from local parents.

Before Parliament resumed, I also took the opportunity to talk to Nick Hulme, Chief Executive of Ipswich Hospital, about the sustainability and transformation plan for Suffolk and North Essex. The key focus is more care outside a main hospital setting, including primary care, self medication and thinking about how outpatients check ups are carried out, as well as links with social care. I referred to the experiences at the other end of Suffolk as well as seeking to understand exactly the challenges of running two hospitals. Colchester has been in special measures and is taking a lot of time and effort to resolve but we have a strong team in Ipswich to keep the show running.

I'm trying to keep positive on football but the FA cup was nearly a humiliation for the Tractor Boys. Glad to see our non League sides are thriving.

Finally, and with my DEFRA Ministerial hat on as well as being the local MP, I was delighted to see the completion of Woodbridge's new flood defences. Three years ago Woodbridge was hit by a storm surge with water levels surpassing even the 1953 flood. After a £1.2m investment, the new strengthened defences for the town will give precious piece of mind to local residents, ensuring that the effects of future flooding are greatly reduced. The new defences are part of the Environment Agency's excellent work across Suffolk and the country."

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