Walsall Advertiser column: 16th November 2017

Yet another busy and exciting month in both Parliament and Walsall North.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, recently announced transport investment for Bloxwich and Walsall and has said improvements to Junction 10 of the M6 in the West Midlands will be brought forward by several months. I'm delighted by the double whammy of Government investment in Walsall North, with £4.2 million that will be put towards vital transport projects in Walsall. Alongside Bloxwich West councillors, I have called for more investment in Bloxwich North station and to improve services on the Chase Line. I’m delighted both are going to happen, delivering my election pledges. The investment into roads around junction 10 will also make a huge difference to travelling times when complete, which is great news for residents and doing business in Walsall. I will keep on at Highways England and the Council to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum and I will seek to meet with them to discuss any concerns from residents and local businesses. Finally, investment in better cycleways around Walsall is good news for cyclists and the environment. I will continue to fight for further improvements to our transport system and will continue to argue for a new train station for Willenhall. Chris Grayling MP said, “We want the Black Country to have the best infrastructure possible, especially as we leave the European Union and open up local businesses to wider global trade possibilities.” I am very encouraged by this news - the sooner it happens, the sooner we can all benefit.

In more good news, I welcome the Government’s plan increase penalties for littering. From April next year, the maximum on-the-spot fine local authorities can issue for dropping litter will nearly double, from £80 to £150. The minimum fine will increase from £50 to £65, while the default fine will increase from £75 to £100. There are also new fines being introduced for owners of vehicles from which litter is thrown. For the first time, local authorities will also be able to apply these penalties for littering to vehicle owners if it can be proved litter was thrown from their car – even if it was discarded by somebody else. The government is clear however that councils must not abuse the power to impose fines. We are lucky to have dedicated community volunteers like Willenhall Wombles who litter pick our community, but there is no excuse for littering and the increased punishments should reflect this.

Finally, it was great to join Ann Barnes for the launch of the Poppy Appeal in Bloxwich this month. Thanks to all volunteers like Ann, who give up their time for such a good cause. To mark the Centenary of the First World War the Friends of Willenhall Memorial Park, in partnership with Walsall Council, have received a National Lottery grant of £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Willenhall Memorial Park WW1 Then and Now project. Awarded through HLF’s First World War then and now programme, the project will focus on researching and sharing the personal stories of the servicemen who helped in the park’s construction between 1920 and 1923. Artists will work with local schools to explore stories and display the 2,000 poppies which have been created by the park’s community and which will form a permanent display. Other displays and art work will be produced around the Park and in the Pavilion, along with a new Memorial Garden which is planned for 2018.

To contact The Friends of Willenhall about being part of the poppy project or to share your stories: Email: ww1research@outlook.com For further information on the project, contact Alison Bate at Walsall Council 01922 653344 or email Alison.bate@Walsall.gov.uk