At times, the past year has felt a bit like scrambling over a brutal assault course, littered with unexpected obstacles and with no clearly defined finish line. And with the news that Lincolnshire now faces Christmas under the harshest Tier 3 restrictions, it feels as if we are still a very long way from the end of the race – but I am so very pleased that the advent of the vaccines available in the UK should hopefully mean that the end is now in sight.

As the Member of Parliament for Lincoln, I am acutely aware of how much of a struggle this year has been for some of my constituents. Myself and my team at our constituency office hear daily of the challenges the pandemic has brought to every aspect of people’s lives, everything from the heart-breaking consequences of social isolation for elderly members of our community, to the devastating impact on our economy and local small and medium sized businesses. I also know from the hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails we receive, that despite these challenges, the people of our great historic city have shown extraordinary fortitude and resilience.

Both myself and the Government are determined to match this fortitude with the support people need to receive to assist them over the approaching finish line. That is why, ever since the first lockdown, central Government has made available an unprecedented range of financial support for employees, businesses and local authorities.

I recognise of course that these measures can only take the edge off the pain caused by COVID-19 and I am determined to do whatever I can as your representative in Government to ensure support reaches all constituents who need it. In Lincoln, small businesses are the backbone of many communities, families and our High Street. Unfortunately, despite our Government’s generous and far-reaching financial support packages, the support has not found its way to all who need it among some who are in this critical section of our local economy and community.

As a member of the recently constituted Blue-Collar Conservative Group, and through my time involved in politics in the past, I have demonstrated that I care deeply about the welfare and wellbeing of these individuals who are willing to take risks in striving to be entrepreneurial. That is why, over the past eight months, I have ensured representations made to me by constituents who have, perhaps through various circumstances or reasons beyond their control, unfairly received little, or no support compared to others, have been put before relevant Ministers and Departments, and I have raised the issue in the national media and with Cabinet Members and the Prime Minster in the House of Commons Chamber.

In addition, I have asked a number of Parliamentary Questions calling for extra support for this sector of our economy who have fallen through the cracks in coronavirus relief, especially for those who have received little support since March, to help see them through. I, along with some of my colleagues, suggested reclaiming the £1.9B received by large supermarkets, who clearly do not need it, to assist in funding this support. I will continue to lend my full weight to supporting Lincoln’s small businesses and do everything I can to make sure we find a path through to the other side of this crisis for all who have been adversely affected.

Before signing off, I would like to end with some of the more positive issues I have been involved with this year. The end of this tumultuous year that has presented many of us with so many difficulties, will also see the success of two key infrastructure projects that will provide a huge boost to our city. The first is that the £120m-plus Lincoln Eastern Bypass project will be open by Christmas; the second is that my long-term campaign to secure the development of the North Hykeham Relief Road, the final section of that Eastern Bypass, has also very recently been given the green light by the Department for Transport. Combined, these projects will bring a whole raft of benefits, from supporting the local economy and reducing congestion, to opening up new land for housing and employment opportunities, and enhancing the inter-city environment, whilst providing a circular ring road around our most-loved city.

As your elected representative in Government, it is my responsibility to focus not just on the immediate crisis due to the national and worldwide pandemic, but also on ensuring our wonderful city is in strong form to bounce back once this is over. What better symbol of the promise of a dynamic future for our city than these two major new infrastructure projects?

I am proud to say these road improvements join several others I have campaigned for in recent years. I have campaigned for these improvements by Putting Lincoln First over the last decade and a half, and I am rightly proud that they have now come to fruition be they rail or road – they have improved our city and the lives of all who live, work, visit and study in the constituency of Lincoln, Skellingthorpe, Bracebridge Heath and Waddington that I have the proud honour and privilege to represent as your Member of Parliament once again. From myself and my family, here is wishing you all a happy Christmas and a bright new start and Christian good wishes as we approach the New Year.

Karl McCartney is the Conservative MP for Lincoln.

The first three months of the year have flown by and there is no sign of the positive news about our city faltering.

We have seen the city’s football club perform heroics in the FA Cup and FA Trophy putting Lincoln on the map the world over and we wish them well as they now concentrate on their league placing in the remainder of the season.

Lincoln Cathedral has recently confirmed that many individuals’ hard work has resulted in them receiving £11.4 million of lottery funding to create both a new visitor centre and an exhibition centre.

With the big plans this year marking the Second Battle of Lincoln and the Charter of the Forest, our heritage and tourism sector continues to celebrate our past and expand ‘our offer’ for the future.

In addition, less than two weeks ago, as part of the Conservative government’s Budget, more investment was announced to ensure our infrastructure keeps apace with the growing demands on the city.

Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Business

Again many of us, through the Greater Lincolnshire Local Economic Partnership (LEP) have worked away behind the scenes to ensure the success of the applications for our city and county.

I joined LEP representatives including Councillor Colin Davie with Andrew Percy MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government at the University of Lincoln as he announced £5 million for the development of a Greater Lincolnshire Centre for Health Science.

He also announced £11.2 million for a Greater Lincolnshire Advanced Engineering, Research and Development Centre developed between Siemens and the University of Lincoln.

Our two universities, our college, UTC and all our excellent schools add real depth to our city, which due to its size, means that students coming here from all four corners of the globe to learn and study will always take away good memories of our ‘most loved’ city.

They will feel they have been a part of its fabric.

I have always felt that going to university in one of our big cities is a whole different experience to studying in a smaller city like Lincoln.

While you are there to learn and study at both, you may not feel the same sense of belonging to the community by studying in a large city rather than a smaller one.

One of my key political themes over the past and next year has been on boys’ education. It is why I was particularly pleased that the Chancellor announced extra investment into further and technical education which will benefit girls and boys alike – and of course those accessing courses at Lincoln College.

I have felt for a long time that university is not for everyone and therefore the focus on A Levels and degrees has been at the cost of perhaps a focus on, and an appreciation of, technical education and a non-academic education.

In my mind, both are equally as valid, so, introducing T Levels as the equivalent of A Levels is indeed great news.

The extra investment will also see a 50% increase in the number of hours students will be trained for and replace the maze of 13,000 qualifications with just 15.

This is not just good news for students and business, it is good news for our country and our county’s economy.

We are a long way down the international league when it comes to technical education – in fact we are placed 16th out of 20 developed economies. This has to change.

By aiming to ensure our teenagers are “work fit” in a number of key industries, we will help bolster the city, county and country’s young workforce and better take advantage of the opportunities that I firmly, positively and optimistically am sure Brexit will bring us.

The government also announced an extra £2.5 million in road junction improvements on the A46 Lincoln Bypass, specifically the junctions with the A15 (to Scunthorpe), Nettleham (A46 to Market Rasen) and Wragby Road (A158 to Louth).

This is on top of the extra Sunday trains between Lincoln and Nottingham announced by East Midlands trains and the start of the work to build the Eastern Bypass around the city, an issue I have relentlessly argued for at all levels of local and national government.

Ensuring Lincoln is the jewel in the crown for the whole of the East Midlands, if not the whole country is my priority.

We enjoy a real partnership between the public, private and charity sector across the whole of our city, and I will do my best to help ensure this continues.

This is why the government when looking to invest in key sectors, looks instantly to Lincoln as a real area of opportunity because of its buccaneering partnership and positive outlook and willingness to do things differently and better.

Lincoln is definitely now viewed as a place to be – and long may that continue.

Karl McCartney is the Conservative MP for Lincoln.

We in Lincoln are well aware of the pivotal role our beautiful cathedral city has played in our nation’s history, heritage and democratic tradition. Indeed, when I was first elected in 2010, the city of Lincoln became the oldest constituency in continuous existence in the United Kingdom having been established in 1265.

In 2015 we celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta of which we have one of the four original copies here in our castle – some say the best of the originals.

And this year in Lincoln we can look forward to a year where we celebrate our great past by looking forward to the future.

We mark the 800th anniversary of two hugely significant and pivotal events in the history of our great city which have had a significant impact on the history and tradition of our country.

As local historians know, on May 20, 1217, the Second Battle of Lincoln took place. This pitted the forces of France, who were occupying the city of Lincoln, against those forces of King Henry III under the command of William Marshall.

Lincoln was one of the major cities in England and of utmost strategic importance. Despite the fall of the city late in the previous year, the castle itself had been kept in the hands of the crown by a formidable woman, Nicholaa de la Haye.

Due to the bravery of de la Haye and Marshall, they rescued Lincoln by initially repelling and then ultimately defeating the invaders.

Given that London at the time was effectively already in the hands of the French, if Lincoln Castle had fallen alongside the already occupied city, historians predict that we, as a country, would have again been under foreign rule – something like 1066 all over again.

The city was then looted by the victors (known as the Lincoln Fair) which is obviously something I do not want to see this, or any, year!

Fast forward a few months to November 6, 1217. In conjunction with the re-establishment of the Magna Carta, a ‘companion’ charter was created entitled the Charter of the Forest – AKA ‘The Charter of the Common Man’.

Whilst the former was based on protecting the rights of the barons and the aristocracy, the latter was based on re-establishing the rights of free-men.

This charter was needed because the two previous kings (Richard and John) had been guilty of land grabbing by placing restrictions on the usage of Royal Forest Land (forest in those days also included heathland, moors and fields) by common men thus making life harder for those who needed the land to survive and thrive.

The Charter of the Forest prevented the monarchy from taking land without a form of due process and re-established land boundaries from the time before the two kings had taken the throne.

It also started the process of limiting unaccountable sovereign power and provided real rights to all. By happy (or planned…) coincidence, today, the only place in the world where you can see original copies of the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest alongside each other is actually in our Lincoln Castle.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with our castle is our historic cathedral which working with others over recent months I was proud to assist and help secure £11.4 million of lottery funding to convert the existing deanery into a visitors’ centre, café and shop.

As part of the Lincoln Cathedral Connected project, the Dean’s Garden will also be opened up to the public for the first time.

It will create a number of new jobs and volunteering opportunities, and provide training for cathedral staff and volunteers.

It will also secure the future of our internationally renowned and historic cathedral as it approaches its 1000th year.

Our cathedral and castle, which has also received much welcome investment recently, are two of our nation’s greatest treasures and are pivotal to Lincoln’s aim to become a top tourist destination in both the county, country and the world.

They play an essential and central role in our city’s history and also play the same role in our city’s future.

We should celebrate and cherish both in equal measure at every available opportunity.

Karl McCartney is the Conservative MP for Lincoln.

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