Written by Ben Everitt
It’s an honour to have been elected to represent Milton Keynes North at the end of last year. It’s less than a year ago, but the world has changed so much since then. The global pandemic has ripped through economies, turned businesses upside down and, tragically, led to many lives ending early. We’ve been locked down, furloughed, socially distanced, masked, sanitised and isolated – all things that would have been utterly unimaginable as 2020.
But Milton Keynes is resilient. More than that, we are irrepressible. At times, it felt like we were the epicentre of Britain’s fight against the pandemic – we hosted a quarantine centre for British citizens and their dependents who were repatriated out of Wuhan Province in China. Our wonderful hospital hit the headlines when one of the first Coronavirus fatalities was recorded. And then again, when an ITV documentary fronted by Ross Kemp gave viewers a brief glimpse of the amazing work our health and care professionals do in such challenging circumstances.
MK’s reputation for technology and innovation shone through, too, being chosen to host one of the UK’s ‘Lighthouse’ mega labs for analysing Covid test swabs. A team of military and scientific professionals re-tooled an existing laboratory, which included robotic freezers for storing and handling samples. And, of course, our drive-in testing centre. Everything moved at an unprecedented pace – from drafting and passing legislation to tasking and mobilising new teams like the Local Resilience Forum, led in our area by Thames Valley Police. Things moved quickly, and sometimes chaotically, but our people stepped up to the mark and delivered.
It’s impossible to overstate how brilliant our local public sector professionals have been in stepping up to the mark and dealing with the challenges the virus has thrown at us. And one of the most wonderful aspects has been how our voluntary sector has supported everyone that needed help at their time of need. Be it existing local charities, established community groups or newly formed groups of people in and around MK who have made a massive difference to people’s lives when they needed it most. I’m genuinely proud to be the MP for MK North.
As well as protecting lives, we must protect livelihoods. The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has so far protected 33,900 jobs in Milton Keynes, with thousands more benefiting from the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. We have also given over £40m of grants to businesses in MK, helping our amazing businesses meet the challenges the global pandemic brings.
As well as the grants, businesses across the UK have been supported by tax cuts and deferrals, as well as and over a million loans through four government-backed schemes. Public services have been strengthened, with an extra £49 billion.
We need to make sure that we do more than recover – I want MK to bounce back to be a global player. We have a thriving arts sector, an excellent retail and leisure proposition and one of the most highly skilled, productive, work forces in the country. We have a reputation for excellence in data, robotics, and precision engineering. We have the potential to take a lead part in Britain’s new place in the world. I’m singing MK’s praises on the global stage, having met with the American Ambassador and the Australian High Commissioner to emphasise MK’s virtues and potential as part of the trade deals currently under negotiation. We can be the next Silicon Valley.