No10 summit and Sherborne West

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A balance of environmental concerns with food security – and local people must be at the heart of local politics, says MP Chris Loder

Chris Loder MP

I have for some time believed that we have to balance our environmental concerns with our food security needs. As the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ministers in DEFRA, I was therefore pleased to be at an early morning meeting with the Prime Minister in May to discuss food security issues as part of the Farm to Fork Summit. I was also very pleased to see that Dorset Cereals, one of our major local businesses – previously based in Dorchester and now operating from Poole – was a stallholder at the event.
To address the criticisms I have heard levelled at the Summit as being ‘non-inclusive’, it is important to remember that there are only so many people you can fit into 10 Downing Street; I was actually impressed by the good number of important representatives who did attend. On another note, while it was good to have the NFU in attendance, it is worth noting that they only represent around 50 per cent of those working in the farming industry. It was great to see that other groups, such as the Tenant Farmers Association, were also present.
Fundamentally, this was a Summit about the UK food supply chain and its self-sufficiency, incredibly important topics. There were also lots of focussed discussion groups, each one having key government advisors in attendance to get opinion and feedback. As the Dorset MP present, and especially being from a tenant farming background, rest assured that Dorset’s voice was heard loud and clear.

Sherborne West
Later this month, on 29th June, polling stations will open from 7am to 10pm for residents of the Sherborne West ward, as more than 2,200 households face a by-election this month for a new Dorset councillor. It follows the resignation last month of Liberal Democrat councillor, Matthew Hall – who moved to Devon almost a year ago.
This by-election provides the opportunity to restore a Sherborne voice to Dorset Council. Participating in local government can be a rewarding and insightful opportunity; I was the local councillor for the Cam Vale ward following a by-election in 2013, and the experiences I gained from local government were formative in developing my interest in national politics.

Modern governance
At the time of writing this article, only the Conservatives have formally adopted their candidate to contest the by-election. Rebecca Burns, who is a lifelong Sherborne resident and award-winning town business owner, was selected on 13th May by the West Dorset Conservative Association. Rebecca has pledged to improve communication between electors and their local councillor and she has allready been out on the doorsteps, delivering letters, talking to residents and listening to their concerns.
As someone who was born in Sherborne and who knows the town and its people well, I’m relieved that the community has Rebecca as a candidate. It genuinely makes a difference when a person born and raised in the area is the candidate representing the interests of local people.
One of Rebecca’s main priorities is to re-open the enquiry desk at Sherborne Police Station – which has the backing of Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner, David Sidwick. Being able to talk to a police representative in-person can make reporting crime less intimidating; a welcome move considering there were 74 incidents (including business-related crime and anti-social behaviour) reported in Sherborne in March alone. I am also pleased to hear that Rebecca is committed to respecting the town’s values and heritage, while wanting to introduce a more modern, refreshed approach to governance and representation. Local politics should be about local people, and in Sherborne West Rebecca certainly has my full support.

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