Working hard for Kent: My newsletter

 

Helped secure £250 million investment for an alternative to Operation Stack

Since I was elected I've campaigned doggedly for an end to thousands of lorries being parked on the M20, sometimes for days on end, as a result of Operation Stack. So I was delighted when Chancellor George Osborne announced a £250 million investment in a new lorry park in his Autumn Statement. He thanked me and other Kent MPs for our efforts in campaigning for this. The lorry park will be near Folkestone and will be built as soon as possible. Highways England will also install metal barriers to stop HGVs parking at Junction 8. I'll be pressing Government agencies to deliver these vital infrastructure projects for Kent.

Stood up for Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School

I was distressed to hear that Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Faversham is in financial difficulties and is dropping some A Level subjects. 

I don't want pupils to miss out on the chance to study important subjects like German and Music. I’ve been in regular contact with Sam Gyimah at the Department of Education, enlisting his help. I have also been campaigning forfairer funding for Kent’s schools. I presented a petition signed by local parents calling for a new funding formula, and in his Autumn Statement the Chancellor announced that the old arbitrary funding formula will be scrapped. A full review of school funding will take place next year.

Insisted residents are properly consulted on the local plan for Maidstone

Residents only had four weeks to respond to Maidstone Borough Council's consultation on development proposals. Many of you told me that wasn't long enough. For example, Langley Parish Council tried to gather opinions from every household via its website and a newsIetter, but by the time it had finished, it was too late to submit the responses. I wrote to the Chief Executive of Maidstone Borough Council to pass on these concerns.

I have also invited Brandon Lewis, the Communities and Local Government Minister to visit Kent to discuss our planning issues. I also hope to show him Traveller sites around Headcorn. The Government recently issued new guidelines on planning policy for Gypsies and Travellers designed to protect the countryside from illegal development and make the system fairer. I have written to Maidstone and Swale Borough Councils to make sure the new guidelines are being implemented.

Called on KCC to think again about closing Kiln Court and the Dorothy Lucy Centre

KCC is consulting on whether to close four care homes, including Kiln Court in Faversham and the Dorothy Lucy Centre in Maidstone. I've visited both and seen the valuable services that they provide. If they are to close, I want to make sure that there are proper alternative arrangements for their users. I've met Cllr Graham Gibbens, the KCC cabinet member for social care, to discuss my concerns and submitted a statement to the consultation along with two fellow Kent MPs. You can read my statement here.

Supported the people of Painter's Forstal in their bid to buy Champion Hall

I met members of the Painter's Forstal Village Amenities Committee in Westminster and was upset to hear that, having raised £70,000 to buy their church hall for the local community, they were suddenly told that it had been revalued at £120,000 and would be sold on the open market. 

I have written to the owner of Champion Hall asking him to halt the sale and look again at the community's bid. I very much hope that Champion Hall will remain open to the community.

Campaigned to revamp Faversham Rec

Several people contacted me complaining about drug use and anti-social behaviour at Faversham Recreation Ground. I raised these concerns with Swale Borough Council and since then police patrols have been stepped up. I'm also pushing the Council to completely revamp the Rec. The equipment is dated, and considering the importance of physical activity for children, Faversham needs decent playgrounds. 

Visited Maidstone Mencap

Maidstone Mencap is a wonderful charity for people of all ages with learning disabilities, based in Cobtree Hall, an old church on the edge of Mote Park. The building needs repairs, which will cost around £100,000. Having visited and seen their good work in action, I’m supporting the charity's fundraising campaign. I encourage you to get involved too, visit the website to find out how you can help.

Talked to the church Synod about my experiences inrefugee camps

In my last newsletter I mentioned my visit to The Jungle migrant camp in Calaiswith the Bishop of Dover. He later invited me to speak at the Canterbury Diocesan Synod, a meeting of local clergy and others, about my experiences. I'm supporting the Bishop's Advent appeal to raise funds for refugees, clickhere to find out how you can help.

Pressed Southeastern to fix the lifts at Faversham station

When the lifts at Faversham station break down, as they do frequently, it’s a nightmare for anyone who can’t manage steps, especially wheelchair users. I brought this up at a meeting with Southeastern. They acknowledged the problem and told me they are working with Network Rail to get them fixed. I will be staying in contact with Southeastern to make sure the repairs get done and that they then get on with replacing the lifts.

Raised concerns about branch closures with HSBC and Barclays banks

When I heard that the Faversham branch of HSBC and the Sutton Road branch of Barclays were going to close I was worried. Though most people are happy to bank online, this doesn't work for everyone, especially older people. I met representatives of both banks to ask what they were doing to help customers and businesses make the transition. I was reassured that over-the-counter services, like paying in cheques, will be available at the Post Office. Staff in the branches will be working closely with the customers who will find the change most difficult and I'll be keeping an eye on the situation.

Representing Kent in Westminster

Asked the Immigration Minister about asylum-seeking children and what the Home Office is doing to relieve pressure on Kent's children's services

Since then the Government has committed extra funding to help Kent's children's services cope with the large number of  unaccompanied asylum-seeking children that are in its care as a result of the migrant crisis. The extra money should also encourage other local authorities to volunteer to accept more of these children.

Spoken in the debate about extending air strikes to Syria

The justification for airstrikes in Syria is, first and foremost, because Daesh are a threat to our national security. That is why I voted in favour of the Government's proposals. Read more about my thoughts on this conflict here.

Asked the transport Minister about improving our roads

 It's great news for Kent that we're getting £250 million to solve Operation Stack, but there's still more to be done. I want to see further improvements to our roads, like resurfacing the noisy stretches of the M20 , and I raised this in a meeting with the transport minister. 

Questioned Kent police about counter-terrorism

 In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, the police briefed Kent MPs on their counter-terrorism strategy. I asked questions to reassure myself they are doing all they can to keep us safe. I also wrote to the Home Office asking what it is doing to support Kent police and make sure they are prepared if there is an attack here.

Raised awareness of shortages in mental health care

 It's vital that we keep talking about mental health. I've spoken in two debates on the subject this month - about male suicide, and the importance of psychiatric liaison in A&E.

Held the Government to account as a health Select Committee member

The committee has written a report on what can be done about childhood obesity. We've also been looking into GPs and how their services need to change to meet the evolving needs of the population. We've been on fact-finding visits to 'Vanguard' practices in Calderdale and Sheffield that are at the forefront of devising new ways of caring for their communities. I've also visited our local Vanguard in Whitstable.

Advocating on national issues

Spoken out about the NHS

Having worked in healthcare for a decade, and now as a member of the health Select Committee, I am using these insights to influence Government policy. I strongly believe that one way to get better outcomes for patients is to make sure they receive the same standard of emergency care at weekends as they do during the week. Part of that move towards creating a 7-day NHS is the new junior doctors' contract. Read more here.