As we welcome in the new year, the MyLocalNews team spoke to Dean Russell MP for Watford to reflect on 2021 and asked him about his plans for 2022.
What have you learned from 2021 that you’re bringing into 2022?
2021 has been a challenging year for so many people, but it has shown such an amazing sense of community in Watford. From the outset, I have been working with volunteer groups who have supported many people who have been supporting each other throughout the pandemic. I have also seen how resilient and kind people across Watford can be, even when facing challenges.
I am grateful to all of our NHS staff for their work this past year. The staff always ensure that they deliver the very best care, and the help from volunteers helps to take some of the pressure off. I was particularly delighted that 2021 saw the creation of the NHS Reserves Programme. I suggested a nationwide NHS volunteer scheme at Prime Minister’s Questions last year and continued to push for this scheme over the past 12 months.
What are you most excited for this year?
I am really looking forward to continuing to work with the community on their priorities for Watford. Post pandemic I very much hope that we can go back to enjoying life which is free from restrictions.
I am keen to meet even more businesses and community groups this year. I have had a really wonderful time doing my ‘Put Dean On Your Team’ initiative to get behind the scenes and get a hands-on view of businesses and charities. I am also looking forward to working with young people on my new Green Team to make sure I hear their views on their thoughts for the future and helping improve our environment.
One of my highlights of 2021 was securing new legislation to ensure hospitality workers will retain 100% of their tips through my ‘Tips Bill’ in a huge win for hospitality staff so I look forward to this being put into law in the next year or so too.
What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge will be the uncertainty from the next strain of Covid-19 and how that will impact on my constituency. I will work with the Government to ensure information is timely and that the relevant support is offered to ensure that people can work (within the guidance) and also access financial and mental health support.
I also want to continue to work to end rough sleeping across Watford. I am proud to have successfully lobbied to help secure over £4 million for Watford however, the winter months in particular serve as a poignant reminder that there is still more to do, and this will continue to be one of my priorities.
As we look towards 2022, now is a great time to reflect on the past 12 months. It has been a very busy year with local activities and my Parliamentary work on the Health & Social Care Select Committee, Human Rights committee and raising important local issues directly with Ministers.
My local work with surgeries and casework has helped me understand the issues in Watford and helped me shape the work I have been doing. Most of the work I do is not seen widely, from helping organise local initiatives to visiting residents and local groups. I get to see the incredible diversity of our town from brilliant businesses to people making a difference locally and worldwide.
I also got to see Parliament at its best as a member of the Online Safety Bill Committee as I interviewed witnesses about Online harm ranging from Rio Ferdinand to the Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen. The report we produced for improvements to legislation were truly cross Party to have the potential to benefit the whole of society.
Come the end of this year, what will you hope to have achieved?
I am very proud to have partnered with the Watford and West Herts Chamber of Commerce as we continue our work to train 1000 Mental Health First Aiders. I want to see a dedicated and qualified Mental Health First Aider in every business, school and establishment. This campaign will continue into 2022 and beyond, and I would like to thank the brilliant trainers and participants for delivering the training in several venues and online.
You can learn more about the Mental Health First Aid Campaign on my website www.deanrussell.co.uk