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Andrew Jones Member of Parliament for Harrogate & Knaresborough

Andrew Jones MP

Member of Parliament for Harrogate & Knaresborough

View from Westminster

In my last column of the year it has become a bit of a tradition to look back at what has happened locally and nationally.  However, the way this year is going there may be quite a bit more news left before we reach 2019!

Nationally, it has in many ways been a continuation of the long and difficult journey from the 2016 referendum.  It is not a journey that has become any easier throughout the year and looks to have a few more bumpy roads and sharp turns left in it yet.  But what I do think is that people are sick and tired of hearing about Brexit.  It is critically important, of course, but has crowded out of the news subjects like our quality of life, health service, education and unemployment.  That is a great shame as that, I believe, is where the focus of most households lie.

In the constituency it has been another busy and productive year.

The debate about whether a road connecting Forest Moor in Knaresborough to Killinghall cutting through the golf course at Forest Lane Head and traversing the Nidd Gorge has continued.  At the end of last year most local County Councillors gave it a resounding thumbs down but the executive at the County Council chose to press on.  In January 2019 they will take a decision over whether or not to take the proposal to public consultation.

I hope this dreadful idea is simply abandoned.  However if it is taken to public consultation I stand four square with the thousands of residents who have already told me they oppose the proposal.

May saw a change in the way our local democracy is organised.  Previously each council ward had two councillors except in the rural areas where wards had one councillor but smaller electorates.  These councillors were elected in a sequence which involved elections nearly every year.

Following a Local Government Boundary Review elections were held which reduced the number of Borough Councillors from 54 to 40.  From now on elections will only be held every four years for the Borough Council.  The results bucked the national trend increasing the Conservative administration’s share of the councillors from two-thirds to over three-quarters.

The new system seems to be working well as a recent independent Local Government Association report on the Council gave it a clean bill of health.

The latter part of the year saw a shock move by the national Post Office organisation to downgrade Harrogate’s Crown Post Office on Cambridge Road by moving to the top floor of WHSmith as a franchise.  This tied in to many campaigns about our town centres including the successful ‘Love your High Street’ by the Harrogate Advertiser and Knaresborough Post and greater promotion of our markets led by Knaresborough Mayor Phil Ireland.  As it stands now the Post Office’s rushed consultation is still open and I have received well over 1000 responses to my survey on the issue which have all been submitted to the post office.

What can we look forward to in 2019?  Nationally I expect the early part of the year will continue to be dominated by Brexit as we approach our leaving date of 29 March.  I hope that following this the debate can move on to how we continue to improve our schools, hospitals and transport infrastructure and give people a better quality of life.

Locally, we can be sure of an international showpiece for our area as Harrogate welcomes the world to the UCI Road World Race Championships come to the district in September.  It is the second largest international cycling event to the Tour de France and will see tens of millions pumped into the Yorkshire economy.  As the host town Harrogate will see the lion’s share of this.  The event will attract more than half a million spectators and generate well over 100,000 overnight stays.  Harrogate will be on TV screens across the globe.  It will be a giant boost for our local economy during the event and a sustained boost to tourism for years to come. I am looking forward to it.

Finally for 2018 can I thank those in our public services who will be working over the festive season and wish residents all the best for Christmas and the New Year.

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