Last Sunday tens of millions of us watched the England Women’s Football team triumph in the final of the European Championships at Wembley Stadium. This was a great moment for English football as we secured our first senior tournament win since 1966. I would like to send my congratulations to the manager Sarina Wiegman, team captain Leah Williamson and all of the players on their achievement. It was great to see the England matches being played in front of record crowds, and I hope that this also promotes women’s football to new fans who may both support and play the game. As a Minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport I attended the England versus Sweden semi-final in Sheffield. It was good to see a packed Bramall Lane and lots of new fans, many of whom may have been watching the Lionesses for the first time. Closer to home, last Saturday I also saw Folkestone Invicta see off Dover Athletic in a pre-season local derby. I’m sure this bodes well for the season ahead. I would also like to send by best wishes to Neil Cugley and his players for the start of their league fixtures on 13th August.
The Commonwealth Games are finally here! Hosted in Birmingham, the Games are celebration of sporting success on an immense scale; 72 commonwealth nations are taking part and a global audience of 1 billion people tuned in to watch the opening ceremony. Whilst showcasing the best of British athleticism, and raising millions of pounds of investment, the Games matter at a local level. Just a month ago the Queen’s Batton Relay was welcomed through Folkestone after travelling the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, bringing local people together to celebrate sport. The importance of inclusive support is also promoted by the Games, with equal numbers of men and women’s events and a large para-sport programme. Such progress is an important step towards life-long, inclusive, and accessible sporting opportunities being made available.
Last week further rail strikes took place across the country, disproportionately impacting hard-working people that need to commute to pay their bills. It is worth remembering that during the pandemic, the Government kept the railways going, costing taxpayers on average £600 per household, and passenger numbers are still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. Yet, Union bosses appear intent on dismissing good-faith negotiation efforts by the rail companies, rejecting an 8% pay deal and holding back plans to modernise the industry and equip it for a sustainable future. A deal must eventually be struck, and I hope that both sides bear in mind the unjust price being paid by ordinary people going about their business.
This summer Invicta National Academy (INA) is offering a free learning programme where pupils can catch-up or get a head start on next term – completely free. Over 44,000 places have been booked from 1st August and it is easy to sign-up at www.invictaacademy.com. All of the volunteers at INA go above and beyond for the local community and, in a similar spirit, I would like to draw your attention to the Community Farming Hero’s Initiative. This award recognises farmers that go above and beyond for their local community and welcome nominations being sent to me at email@example.com
Finally, I was also pleased to get confirmation last week that the planned 42-day closure of the Elham Valley Road at Lyminge this summer will now not be going ahead. These road works were connected to the new housing development in the village, and I have been assured by the property developer that an alternative plan will now be considered.