Whether 2018 was a triumph for you or an ‘annus horribilis’, one thing is clear- it has certainly not been boring!
This has certainly been the case in Parliament. Many areas of policy have received much less attention than they deserve. So we still have no long-term funding solution for social care; many local schools are still struggling for funding; and despite increased levels of reported crime across the country, we are still not seeing the resources we need for adequate policing. In other areas, while policies have been put forward, they have not been adequately scrutinised- as I recently argued in Parliament was the case over new rules governing enforced treatment for people with mental illness.
The government has been entirely consumed trying – and failing – to address Brexit, taking almost no interest in any other issues. Despite a number of key votes on Brexit (and bills being passed, including the customs and sanctions bills, which I discussed in parliament dozens of times this year), it is still unclear which direction we are headed in. With the key vote on Theresa May’s deal pushed back until the third week of January, many local people and businesses are still unclear about what the future holds. This is of course immensely damaging for our city given its strong European links.
My office has received a very high level of correspondence about Brexit and other issues – amounting to over 22,000 emails this year. Both I and my hardworking staff have done our best to respond to constituents on this as quickly as we can, at the same time as helping people with particular issues on which they need support in a timely fashion. Indeed this year we addressed over 9,000 such matters. These covered a whole range of issues- from homeless families coming to my office, desperate for help with accommodation; to Windrush generation people being threatened with deportation due to the ‘hostile environment’; to disabled people whose social security had been inappropriately withdrawn. Other detailed cases have included a sports club needing a ground at the last-minute; constituents whose families or friends are being persecuted in other countries (reflecting Oxford’s extensive international links); and local residents seeking improved facilities in a number of parts of my constituency.
I am very grateful for the work of our excellent local advice centres in Oxford East, who have enabled me and my office provide help to so many people this year.
Above all I would like to thank all my constituents for their support and engagement- whether by writing to me, attending local events or just being willing to have a chat on their doorstep with me on a Sunday morning.
In finishing, please can I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year.