Karen Lee: My priorities and ambitions for 2018

2017 has been a very significant and proud year for me, the year I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Lincoln, the city where I was born and have lived all of my life.

I was a local councillor, a nurse, a trade unionist and a woman who has brought up her family before becoming an MP. I have worked hard to meet that challenge, becoming Private Parliamentary Secretary to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell a few weeks after my election.

As well as the excitement of my election last June there are some events which will stick in my mind, and the terrible fire at Grenfell, which happened just days after my election, will remain forever in people’s minds.

Before Christmas I joined colleagues in a committee room at Westminster to listen to survivors and families of those who died in that fire tell their stories. It is an utter disgrace that families still have not been rehoused and the government must address this without delay.

I went to the site some days after the fire and left flowers from the people of Lincoln, it was a harrowing sight which made me cry.

Brexit delays

Brexit has dominated the news and I find it incredible that after almost 18 months so little progress has been made, the government’s division and lack of effective leadership is clearly a huge part of this and I fear that any deal we do eventually strike will be hindered by this obvious lack of a unity.

I was a remainer but completely accept that we will leave the EU and as MP for Lincoln my part in this is to take forward the decision made on this.

I do however feel strongly that any decision has to come back to this country’s elected Parliament to approve. We must protect jobs, the economy and workers rights and not end up with a cliff-edge Brexit.

My priorities

When I was elected I had a number of priorities which I have worked hard to take forward. It has been frustrating however as an opposition MP to be limited in what I am able to achieve.

I’m appalled at the levels of homelessness on our streets and I have worked hard with local police, representatives of both physical and mental healthcare agencies and the leader and chief executive of the City of Lincoln Council to try to address this.

This year I did not send Christmas cards but I am made personal donations to a number of charities including to those who support Lincoln’s homeless people.

I said in June that I wanted to get Lincoln’s traffic moving and have set up a Transport Taskforce. This group will bring together key stakeholders to assess the current impacts on the transport network in Lincoln; they will consider the issues, assess the priorities and identify the solutions facing the transport network in Lincoln.

The county council’s “Lincoln Transport Strategy” is due to be reviewed in 2020 after the completion of the Eastern Bypass and the work of the taskforce will help inform the current issues and highlight any solutions which can then be fed into the county council’s forward strategy.

Looking forward to 2018 I am seriously worried about the full rollout of Universal Credit in Lincoln this coming March.

The five week wait for many families will be a huge struggle and I don’t feel that encouraging claimants to borrow money to get through this period is acceptable; it is hard enough to manage debt whilst employed and I think almost impossible when on benefits.

I would urge anyone locally who needs support to contact my office and we will do our best to help you. It may well be that helping get a food voucher is all we can do, but I am genuinely afraid of what the full implementation of this appalling and utterly flawed system will do to families in Lincoln.

My year ahead

So, looking forward to 2018, I shall be working hard to get the very best for Lincoln and hold the government to account when policies they carry forward impact locally.

I’ll continue to speak up from the green benches as I did recently, challenging the fact that Lincoln has only four “place of safety” beds across Lincolnshire (serving a population of around 750,000 people) for those with mental health needs who are taken into Police custody, two of those places are in Lincoln’s Peter Hodgkinson Centre – just completely inadequate and totally unacceptable.

I shall be watching what happens with the Lincoln Walk-In Centre closely and will seek meetings with the CCG to ensure that people in Lincoln are not let down by the closure.

I will also keep on working an occasional shift at Lincoln County Hospital so that I can see first-hand what is happening in our local NHS.

To end on a positive and hopeful note, I plan to try spend a little bit more time with my family and friends and hope to get to Sincil Bank more often, I got my ticket on Boxing Day with friends, cheering the Imps on.

I’m very much looking forward to being Lincoln’s voice in Westminster in 2018 and I’d like to finish by wishing everyone in Lincoln, Skellingthorpe, Bracebridge Heath and Waddington East a very happy and peaceful New Year.