You’ve got to take your hat off to 72-year-old Tom Wilson from Elwick Road who raised over £3,000 for Charity recently by wing walking! Strapped to a bi-plane this fearless septuagenarian reached speeds of over 135 mph during his daredevil stunt above Selby, North Yorkshire, and all to raise funds for the Hartlepool Blind Welfare Society and Guide Dogs for the Blind. What a hero and yet another example of your typical caring and public-spirited Hartlepudlian. Well done Tom, you did us proud and your aeronautical antics certainly impressed everyone.

Equally impressive is the work of Hartlepool Teaching Assistant Pam Richards, who works at the Sunnyside Academy in Coulby Newham in Middlesbrough. Pam invited me to the school after I participated in a Westminster Hall debate on whether British Sign Language should be part of the school curriculum, and to experience for myself how deaf and hearing-impaired children from Hartlepool and across the Tees Valley are educated. I visited last Friday, meeting children from the town, visiting classes led by the most inspirational and enthusiastic of teachers and ultimately to witness an exceptional signed story reading by Pam herself. I was literally stunned and in awe of everybody and everything. I remember having deaf neighbours as a student in Liverpool, a partially deaf neighbour once in Hartlepool and a work colleague who is rapidly losing their hearing; this visit made me ashamed that I really don’t even know rudimentary BSL and I’m determined to do something about that.

Thanks also to the students at Sunnyside who all took time out to present me with a petition over getting BSL on the curriculum and recognised, like French or German, as an actual language and for them all writing to me with their own experiences and reasons for wanting more people to learn to sign; very reminiscent to me of the personal anecdotal letters sent to me at a meeting I had recently with Grandparent kinship carers in the Town.

I attended a fantastic roundtable talk in Parliament last week about kinship carers. These are folk who by their very existence save the state a fortune by looking after their loved ones practically for free, and often at great expense to themselves and their careers. The roundtable event was hosted by an organisation called Grand Parents Plus, who echoed many of the views and experiences I witnessed first-hand myself from local carers. Kinship carers get little support financially or otherwise and yet without them the state would be overwhelmed and overburdened. They literally sacrifice everything to keep children within a family environment and they need the statutory recognition they deserve.  Kinship Carers aren’t necessarily grandparents, they can be younger carers, brothers or sisters, aunties or uncles, but they are all in the same boat and I for one have pledged to help progress their cause.

Speaking of children, I am not happy at all over plans by NHS England to transfer intensive neonatal care from North Tees Hospital to the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough, and I have made my views plain to the powers that be. We have an excellent Maternity Unit at Hartlepool Hospital, which is currently underused, but when it comes to urgent critical care the intensive care unit at North Tees, staffed by many Hartlepool Nurses and support staff, offers a second to none service to Hartlepool mothers and their babies. There is no sound reason for these services drifting further away from Hartlepool patients, but as good friends in the union movement know, I am slightly hamstrung on this issue as I am not the MP covering the hospital which is directly affected. It’s also a smack in the face following yet more post-EU false promises over NHS funding announced by the Government only this week; the people were conned by the £350 million per week NHS Brexit battle bus promise, which the arrogant billionaire, UKIP-backing Arron Banks in his appearance before the Commons Select Committee alluded to last week, and they certainly won’t be fooled again.

As I’ve mentioned Middlesbrough a couple of times in this week’s column it would be amiss of me to say that it’s fantastic to see that according to the Office of National Statistics the tourism industry pumped nearly £2.2 billion into the North-East economy last year, per head that’s £819 for every man, woman and child in the region, but here we fall short of Middlesbrough, bringing in £37,846,000 compared to £64,357,000 brought in by our neighbours. Of course, you have to factor in the football crowds drawn in by the Boro, but clearly we can and will do so much better because we have more to offer in my humble opinion as a tourist destination.

Finally, with Armed Forces Day coming up; the centenary of the end of the Great War; the recent celebrations for the Royal Family; and England currently taking part in the World Cup, I have approached the Council to ask if they would consider flying the Union Flag and St George’s Cross from the first two flagpoles outside of the Civic Centre. At a time when society is so divided around politics and identity, I believe it would be a step in the right direction to see the Council take this small act to reflect national pride. Let’s get behind our national team during the World Cup.


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