Westminster Diary January
The festive spirit was in full swing when I visited Aspires for their ‘at home’ event in Fincham. With mince pies, tombola and Christmas cards all on offer I particularly enjoyed chatting to everyone and hearing more about the work done there. Aspires is a day service which offers work experience and social skills for adults with learning and/or physical disabilities. Open five days a week with currently 45 attendees who access the service, the aim of Aspires is to bolster self-esteem and offer an opportunity for work experience. There is a genuine enthusiasm and commitment by all those attending and the staff and volunteers told me how the activities offered in Fincham provide the adults with a real sense of purpose.
Just a couple of miles along the road in Barton Bendish, Christmas celebrations were also underway at the Berney Arms. With an extremely popular restaurant serving up turkey, game and fish dishes I can see why it was voted Norfolk’s best pub in 2014. It was great to see it so busy and we are incredibly fortunate in South West Norfolk to have so many fabulous hostelries. The staff said that every effort is made to source produce from local suppliers – something I am fully supportive of!
With our food and drink sector worth £103 billion, I am particularly keen to see the use of open data as another tool in the production of food. Data will help farmers maximise crop yields, improve the quality of produce and feed growing communities. At DEFRA we are opening up 8000 data sets and the value of open data has already been demonstrated in Holland where satellite data was used to identify 30,000 acres of crops that had been damaged by mice and Plantwise collects and shares data from thousands of farmers to help them tackle disease outbreaks. The use of open data was something that I also discussed when I met Norfolk Farmers and Wildlife Advisor Group ( FWAG )just outside Methwold. The Countryside Stewardship Scheme and reducing red tape proved to be another area of interest for FWAG.
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2016.