Campaigning for my hardworking colleague Iain Stewart MP in Milton Keynes South
Posted Saturday, 24 January 2015 at 11:05
Unemployment falling in Mid-Bedfordshire
Posted Wednesday, 21 January 2015 at 12:06
I've just had my monthly email from the Commons library about the jobless figures for Mid-Bedfordshire and the news is very encouraging.
The number of Jobseeker's Allowance claimants in Mid Bedfordshire in December 2014 was 443. This is just 0.8% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64.
The number of claimants is 302 lower than in December 2013 and 31 lower than in November 2014.
As always, there is more to be done for people who either have no job or who are underemployed with fewer hours than they want or need. But the overall trend is positive and I hope it continues across the next months and on into 2016.
In Praise of the Blackpool Victoria Hospital
Posted Thursday, 15 January 2015 at 13:25
I am often asked to speak or take part in charity events outside of my constituency but this event I would like to flag up in particular as it is very close and personal to me.
On her birthday last September, my friend, Mary Taylor, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Mary is standing next to me in the picture in the very fetching dark wig. Mary is a truly selfless person who is always, and I mean always, doing something kind for someone other than herself.
It was no surprise to me when Mary called and told me she had organised a fund raising event for Blackpool Victoria Hospital and the Princess trust and would I open it?
Of course, I said yes and, like everyone else she had spoken to, I imagine, I put the phone down stunned at the fact that whilst coming to terms with a profoundly distressing situation and undergoing chemotherapy, Mary had organised such an event in less than three months.
Little did I know that, within weeks, I would also experience the amazing care provided by the medical and nursing staff at Blackpool Vic, as my own mother was admitted as an emergency admission just before Christmas.
Blackpool Vic is staffed by local people caring for local people and it shows. It’s the kind of hospital were people are born, have their own babies, visit, say goodbyes to loved ones, work and often depart this life from. The standards and levels of efficiency and the caring attitude of the staff who speak to patients as though they really like and care about them, are all exceptional.
This article was in the Blackpool Gazette and thank you to all the lovely ladies (and Tommy) who helped Mary raise almost £700 on the day.
In praise of Enid Blyton, Hilary Mantel and audio books
Posted Tuesday, 13 January 2015 at 15:56
Read my interview with the Irish Times here
Meeting with Govia Thameslink and Network Rail
Posted Tuesday, 6 January 2015 at 16:10
This afternoon I held a meeting in my Westminster office with representatives of Network Rail and Govia Thameslink. I called them in to express my deep concern about service standards on the line following the franchise handover in September and to reflect the many pieces of correspondence from constituents who have suffered because of delays and cancellations.
Govia accept that performance in the first three months of the franchise was poor and continued to offer their apologies to all those passengers who have been affected. We then bore down into why the situation had arisen and what was being done to improve things now.
A large number of cancellations, as noted by constituents, have been blamed on a lack of drivers. Part of this problem was inherited from First Capital Connect. Some extra drivers were immediately put in extra training but this has not been anywhere near enough to prevent chaos on the network. I expressed my anger that this has been allowed to happen and that my constituents jobs and livelihoods are potentially being put at risk because of consistent delays.
When delays do occur passengers frequently complain that they are not kept informed, either by platform staff, drivers or information boards on the trains. I emphasised that this must change. Delays can be caused by problems out of the control of the operating company but the subsequent communication with their passengers is a vital duty for Govia.
They agreed that this was the case and admit that their system is inferior to that used by FCC. In addition to investment in apps and twitter feeds, I made the point that staff on platforms and trains must have access to the most up to date information that they can share with passengers in announcements and when approached directly.
The UK’s failure, over successive governments and generations, to invest properly in our railway networks is causing failures of our ageing infrastructure. This is being addressed and the lines from London to Bedfordshire are performing well. Unfortunately our trains are affected by knock-on problems occurring on the stretch of line south of London to Brighton. Large parts of the ticket prices we all pay are being spent on updating the networks, including major upgrade projects such as at London Bridge but also all along the lines on smaller but equally necessary works.
Finally, several constituents have raised with me the new system by which compensation is allocated to season tickets holders subjected to delays. Apparently, across the rail industry the operating companies were told by user groups that passengers preferred personalisation and compensation that more accurately reflected delays they had actually experienced, rather than averages based on broader performance figures. This requires personal data entry of the relevant information, for now.
Govia are moving to a new smart-ticketing system similar to London’s Oyster system. This will once again see compensation for delays and cancellations automatically assigned to passengers regardless of their ticket class. That system will come online this year but for the time being passengers will have to claim for each individual delay as it occurs.
Govia have told me things are now going to get better. I have asked for month by month performance figures outlining delays, cancellations and timing of arrivals to assess and chart whether or not they deliver on this commitments. We will meet again in three months to discuss it further and hopefully at that meeting there will be tangible demonstration of improvement that will be felt by all commuters.
In the meantime, any constituent who has suffered delays or any problem with Govia’s service then please do continue to let me know and I will raise the problems with them for you.
Finally, I believe that a twelve month period to train a driver is a tad excessive and the move towards driverless trains in 2017/18 in order to meet the target of 24 trains per hour through the London core is a welcome advancement.
Warrington Guardian interview
Posted Thursday, 18 December 2014 at 16:12
to read my interview in the Warrington Guardian
Posted Thursday, 18 December 2014 at 16:06
to read my short review of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Harper Lee in the Independent
Talking to London Live about being a female politician
Posted Monday, 8 December 2014 at 21:04
Interview in The Independent
Posted Monday, 8 December 2014 at 17:47
Click here to read my inteview in today's Independent
Opening new care home in Meppershall
Posted Friday, 28 November 2014 at 17:53
Click here to read the story in Bedfordshire on Sunday
The NHS Private Members Bill
Posted Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 10:45
Thank you to all the constituents who contacted me about National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill. While I respect the sincerity of your points of view, I believe that the proposed Bill would be an unnecessary upheaval and would take our NHS backwards.
I am absolutely committed to the founding principles of the NHS - that care is free at the point of use based on need, not on the ability to pay. I know Ministers share this view and the Health and Social Care Act does nothing to change this. It will not privatise the NHS.
The Government rightly undertook reforms to strengthen the NHS and invest an extra £12.7 billion in the service. There are 850,000 more operations being delivered each year compared to 2010, and thousands of more doctors and nurses. I am also proud that the Prime Minister has promised to continue this investment in the next Parliament. This will mean spending on the NHS will rise in every year in real-terms.
I believe giving local doctors the power to make decisions about who provides local NHS services was an important step forward. Local doctors know their patients best and are already improving patient care up and down the country through their Clinical Commissioning Groups. But the Government has always been clear that Ministers are ultimately responsible for the performance of the NHS.
The NHS and its doctors are clear that choice and competition are important tools to deliver high quality care for patients. That is why the previous Labour Government introduced competition and the private sector. When Labour left office, private providers delivered five per cent of NHS services and after four years of the Coalition Government this has increased to just six per cent.
Posted Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 14:59