COLUMN: Reporting Back with MP Julian Smith

February '  Nick Stafford, founder of Melmerby-based Hambleton Ales, presents Mr Smith with a special award for his support for British beer, a Parliamentary Beer Champion certificate from the Society of Independent Brewers. (BR1002/08a)
February ' Nick Stafford, founder of Melmerby-based Hambleton Ales, presents Mr Smith with a special award for his support for British beer, a Parliamentary Beer Champion certificate from the Society of Independent Brewers. (BR1002/08a)

With the start of a new year, MP for Skipton and Ripon Julian Smith casts his eyes back over 2014 to look at important issues and events which affected the constituency.

2014 has been a very busy year at Westminster and across this incredible constituency that I am so proud and privileged to represent.

Most importantly, over the past year, there have been more positive signs that the economy is on the mend. The Government’s long-term economic plan is working – we have recently seen the biggest fall in unemployment since records began.

Across the Skipton and Ripon constituency, over the last four years, unemployment has fallen by 60 per cent. Over 3,200 new apprenticeships have been started, giving more opportunities to those looking to learn and earn, and this has helped reduce youth unemployment here by more than 70 per cent. Progress is being made but there is more to do.

I have been doing everything I can to support jobs locally over the past 12 months by fighting for small business, including leading political efforts to bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire.

The weekend in July was, undoubtedly, one of the highlights of 2014. Seeing so many people lining the roads around Masham, Ripon and Harrogate to welcome the Grand Départ was incredible and we are now seeing the economic impact with a recent report suggesting that around £102m was brought into Yorkshire as a result of the race. The weekend will live long in the memory.

A lot of my time over the past year has been spent ensuring our communities remain connected: whether by bus; thanks to an improved road network, with increased investment in tackling potholes; or through my campaign for superfast broadband, which has now seen 28,000 premises across the constituency with better internet connections.

I have also worked with communities across the constituency to deal with unwanted wind farms and other planning issues, and to ensure that our rural services – schools, hospitals and post offices – are protected.

One of my promises in 2010 was to hold advice surgeries in many locations across the constituency and I have continued to do that in 2014 with sessions around the area including in Ripon, Masham and Pateley Bridge. Since the General Election I’ve hosted more than 125 of these MP advice surgeries, helped more than10,000 constituents with questions, issues or challenges they were facing and received more than 50,000 emails.

I have recently published my 2014 Annual Report, something I have done every year since my election so that residents and businesses can see the work I have been doing both across the constituency and at Westminster.

Copies have been sent out to homes across Ripon, Masham and Nidderdale but if you haven’t received one, you can see it on my website at www.juliansmithmp.com or let me know and I will send you one.

I hope that you, your family and friends have a peaceful and enjoyable festive season and I wish you all the best for 2015.