My article for Walsall Advertiser – 4 January 2018

As the chimes of Big Ben rang out for the start of 2017, little did we know what an eventful year it would turn out to be. In March the letter was delivered by hand to the EU letting them know the UK was leaving and 6 weeks later there was a surprise General Election in June. Thank you to everyone who took part in our democratic process.

And as we ended the year, before parliament rose for the Christmas recess, the government announced a major concession that foster carers can claim free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds. Foster carers do a fantastic job giving children a home so it was hard to understand why they were specifically excluded in the first place.

On the last sitting day, the Courts ruled against the Government on changes to Personal Independence Payments. The ruling says that the changes the Government made to PIP earlier this year are unlawful because they unjustifiably discriminate against people with mental health problems, the Government did not consult on them and the Government did not have the right powers to make them.

In the last week the Communities secretary announced that Government plans to end the revenue support grant and allow Councils to keep all of the business rates would be put on hold. The Government is consulting on a fair funding review and the consultation closes on 12 March. At my weekly session with the Leader of the House I asked that given 2 weeks will have been lost over Christmas if she will raise with the communities secretary whether the closing date could be extended for 2 weeks to the end of March 2018.

With good news for the West Midlands that Birmingham will be hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2022, this could make a huge impact in Walsall as a place to stay, hosting events and for the arts.

From Westminster to Manchester from London Bridge to Finsbury Park families caught up in the terrorist attacks spent their first Christmas grieving for their lost loved ones. Our public servants whether on duty or off duty responded brilliantly. We saw the country come together as one working together to support each other. We should strive to do that at all times.

And as the Chimes of Big Ben ring out again for 2018, I want to wish everyone a happy, prosperous and peaceful New Year.