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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
We have heard many tributes today to NHS staff for the efforts they are putting in to protect us all. I wish to add my own tribute to them, particularly to the frontline staff, and to every person who works in the care sector. Indeed, I pay tribute to anybody, whether employed in the care sector or not, who may be supporting vulnerable people in the weeks to come. I can well imagine the armies of volunteers who will be stepping up to the mark in the weeks to come.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pledged in his first speech on the steps of Downing Street that making our streets safer was a key priority for this Government, and I could not agree more. All of us in the wider Dudley area welcome the new multi-million pound “super station” to be built by West Midlands police. I do not wish to sound ungrateful, but Dudley needs more than that. The recruitment of 20,000 new police officers across the UK is incredibly important. It is vital that we see a greater visible presence, particularly in areas such as Gornal and Sedgley in my constituency, to deter against violence and vehicle theft. In my experience, as a local elected member, I know that it is a police force that engages and embeds itself in local neighbourhood communities that achieves results, not brand new buildings, computer screens and form-filling. We need a police force that is a part of local communities, not one that is seen as remote and largely out of touch. Some officers are great at what they do, but we need more of them and they need more support themselves.
Dudley, as part of the west midlands, will see part of the £4.2 billion of investment in city regions, giving elected mayors more say over transport in their area. Like our great Mayor, Andy Street, I welcome this much needed investment. HS2 is welcome in Birmingham, but Dudley is in vital need of better roads and better public transport links to improve connectivity to the Birmingham interchange and indeed the wider midlands. Better transport connectivity opens up incredible opportunities for employment, study and local regeneration.
I am pleased that the Budget brings a £400 million funding boost over the next year to further education to go towards enhancing access to higher-quality courses, covering the cost of expensive but important courses, and ensuring that further education providers can continue to recruit high-quality teachers. As I mentioned at Prime Minister’s questions, and in my maiden speech, Dudley is to benefit from investment of £25 million as part of the towns fund, and the programme board, which incorporates all major stakeholders, has agreed to dedicate that to the creation of a university campus in Dudley.
Dudley College of Technology is doing amazing things, and I was blown away by the extraordinary offer it brings, in conjunction with local businesses, to the town and Dudley people. I hope Members here today will join me in congratulating the college on receiving a Queen’s anniversary prize for education just a few weeks ago. The prize is the highest national honour awarded in UK further and higher education, so the £25 million funding will build on an already outstanding college, providing essential skills to set learners on a pathway to success in jobs for the future. However, more will be needed to secure a great university presence in Dudley, and I am placing on the record not only my support for the scheme, but a request for support from relevant Departments so that we can truly “level up” by offering people world-class opportunities that come from world-class education.