If you’d told me at the start of the week that I would be speaking in a debate on concrete mixers, I might have thought it unlikely. But that’s exactly what I did recently to stand up for a local company called Mixamate that operates in South Leeds and beyond, which is facing real difficulties because of government plans to reduce the weight at which their vehicles can operate.
We’re all familiar with drum concrete mixers. They fill up and go and deliver their batch of concrete – usually within two hours before it starts to set. Someone in the industry then decided that they could do better and invented the volumetric concrete mixer which is, in effect, a small concrete producing factory on wheels. Its great advantages are that it can make up batches on site, it can adjust the strength and type of concrete needed and it can deliver to a number of sites on its journey. But as a consequence of doing all these things in one vehicle, it is heavier than ordinary drum concrete mixers. This specialist industry has been under threat because the Government was proposing to reduce the weight at which they could operate and that would have rendered these businesses unviable. I’m glad to report, however, that after a great speech by the MP for Orkney and Shetland and my own humble contribution, the minister announced that he will have a review to look at whether they need to change the rules. It was an object lesson in how to campaign effectively. The industry got together. They marshalled the arguments and the facts. They lobbied MPs and collectively we got the minister to listen. That’s democracy working.
It is the season of summer festivals and I recently attended the Hunslet Gala. It was a special occasion because it was the 20th and last year that Steve Thompson has been in charge of organising the event. He has done an absolutely magnificent job over the years and for anyone who thinks that organising a gala is a relatively straightforward business, think again. The rules surrounding it, the paperwork that has to be filled in, the health and safety considerations and everything else are a lot of work, but he has done it cheerfully so that all of us can turn up on the day and enjoy ourselves. And apart from that, you never see Steve without his camera. He has promised that although he is stepping back from organisation, he will be there in the years to come taking photos. Thank you, Steve, on behalf of all of us for everything you’ve done.
I’m sometimes asked by school pupils what an MP does? It’s not an easy question to answer, because there are so many different aspects to the job. The work in Westminster scrutinising legislation, speaking in debates and asking questions, holding the government to account and, of course, voting. And then everything we do in our constituencies to look after the people we have the privilege to represent.
To take a recent example, a Friday or two ago, I started off at the Health for All AGM at Tenants Hall in Middleton, where I spoke about the tough times that so many people are facing and contrasted it with the work that Health for All’s partners do to help and support those in need. I always feel uplifted every time I am there. Thanks Pat and the team.
Then it was off to the Crooked Clock in Hunslet to talk to a group of young people with learning disabilities as part of Learning Disabilities Week. They ask me a lot of very pertinent questions.
After that, it was into the office to talk about a number of individual cases with my wonderful team, before taking part, with other MPs from the region, in a Zoom call with West Yorkshire health and care leaders. I asked about dentistry given that so many people have contacted me because they cannot find an NHS dentist who is willing to take them on. They said they are trying to use some money they have been given to change the dental contract to encourage more dentists to take on NHS patients. I only hope it works. I also asked them about care locally for people with Huntington’s Disease, an issue on which I am doing a lot of campaigning.
Then I jumped in my car to drive to Leeds Beckett University to give some closing remarks to a conference on home insulation and how we can get to a net zero future. The team there have done a great job on what can be done to reduce for the need for energy in existing homes, and I talked about the challenge we have with different types of housing and the cost of different types of zero carbon heating systems. I also confessed that I had been so keen to speak at this event that I’d managed to turn up in the right place a week previously. Don’t ask!
Finally I went to see an art exhibition at the Tetley. It’s one of many creative activities taking place across Leeds as part of the Leeds 2023 celebrations.
And then on the Saturday I spent a wonderful afternoon at the Beeston Festival, which I am pretty certain was bigger and better than ever. I toured the stalls, bought some rhubarb (now made into rhubarb fool) and lobelia plants (now safely bedded in and watered). I also played two ends of bowls at the Cross Flatts Park Bowling Club. The contrast between my playing companion’s impressively smooth bowling and my pretty ineffective efforts was, thankfully, largely unnoticed by the large crowds in the park.
First published in the July 2023 edition of South Leeds Life, available online