LAST week, Darlington took centre stage in the Chancellor’s Budget, putting our town firmly on the map as we look forward to becoming the home to Treasury North. This is a significant decision, putting decision makers in the heart of our community, will change the mindsets of mandarins and increase the opportunities for our residents.

A child growing up in Darlington can now aspire to a career in HM Treasury and achieve that ambition without leaving their hometown. That truly is levelling up.

We have since learnt that our Chancellor will be spending part of his working week in Darlington too. This is not simply a relocation of back office functions. The campaign led by the mayor of the Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, and supported by myself, fellow regional Conservative MPs and our council leader demonstrated to the Government our unity of purpose, not only on this, but on the other ambitions for the whole of Tees Valley. Many people put their trust in Conservatives for the first time in 2019 and I am proud to be part of the team that is delivering on exactly what we said we would do.

Sadly at the end of an incredible week for Darlington we saw Locomotion No 1 relocated. I know the sense of sadness and disappointment felt by many. I am, however, glad to have had a hand in ensuring that we will be able to share in the display of the engine in the future. I know that without a vigorous campaign, extensive discussions, and the matter being raised in the Commons on multiple occasions, we would almost certainly have seen it gone forever.

Darlington’s rich heritage and history has sadly not been used to its fullest advantage. Indeed, we could look at the decisions of our council in the past, such as the closure of the Arts Centre, or the planned closure of the library, as examples of poor management by those political leaders of yesteryear.

Thankfully, our new Conservative leadershipis intent on celebrating our heritage which will see more than £20m invested in the Rail Heritage Quarter around Head of Steam, housing our newly acquired replica of Locomotion No 1 on a permanent basis and enabling free entry for all.

I look forward to more announcements of investments and plans for our rail heritage. If nothing else, the "Keep the Loco in Darlo" campaign has done much to highlight our railway story, reigniting interest which will lead to more visitors to the town.

Last week was World Book Day, and I was joined by Henry Pease, to launch my short story writing competition. Henry is a teddy bear, named after a former MP for Darlington. I am encouraging young people to write a story about Henry’s adventures in Darlington, with a chance for the best stories to be published in a book, the money raised from which will be used to support autism related charities in Darlington.

We also saw last week the opening of the first NHS mass vaccination hub at the Darlington Arena, giving local people the choice of getting a vaccine there or at Feethams House. Just over 23m people have had their first jabs administered, a truly remarkable achievement by an army of volunteers, health professionals and those from a variety of uniformed services. I pay tribute to them all.

Stay safe.

Peter Gibson is the Conservative MP for Darlington