With Spring now upon us, and the lockdown restrictions beginning to lift, it has been great to once again get out and about and visit people in person (while of course socially distanced).
Over the last year, our high streets have benefited from a huge amount of support from central Government, and in particular I’m delighted many of our shops have been able to access restart grants of up to £6,000 to help them reopen – something I raised in the chamber with the Chancellor. But there is always more we can do, and that’s why I this week I held a meeting with the Secretary of State for Business, Kwasi Kwarteng, alongside Peter Fleming, Sevenoaks District Council Leader, to discuss the current Government support available, and how the schemes are operating.
As well as those who are reopening, there are a number of new shops due to open in Sevenoaks Town, including a baker, a butcher, with a fishmonger possibly to follow. This fantastic news comes hot on the heels of Sevenoaks being placed as sixth best retail centre in the country by Harper Dennis Hobbs, and one of the top 10 South East towns to live in by the Sunday Times – the only town in Kent (other than Deal) in the top 10. It is brilliant to see our fantastic home being recognised in this way.
I am also pleased that next week will see the return of local democracy. Residents across the constituency will be invited to visit the polling booths to cast their votes in the Kent County Council and Kent Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) election. There is also a Sevenoaks District Council by-election for Brasted, Chevening and Sundridge, should you fall within that ward.
A many of you will know, County Council elections have a direct effect on the individuals, families and businesses in Sevenoaks; be it the maintenance of our roads, our local infrastructure, providing provision of local services such as adult social care and education, or litter and fly tipping – the list is extensive. The County Councillors you choose will also need to work with Parish Councillors, Town Councillors, Sevenoaks District Councillors and myself as the Member of Parliament to gain a joined-up approach to local affairs.
Over the last few weeks, alongside my duties as your Member of Parliament, I have been on the campaign trail supporting our fantastic Conservative candidates. We are incredibly lucky in Sevenoaks to have a brilliant District and County Council, with the leader of Kent Country Council, Roger Gough, right here in our district, alongside PCC Matthew Scott in Swanley. Proof once again that Sevenoaks is the thriving centre of Kent.
As ever, if I can help or support you please do not hesitate to get in touch with my office on email@example.com. I am keen to meet as many of you as possible so do please also get in touch if you know of somewhere I should visit, or someone I should meet.
MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley
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Below is a snapshot of what we have been working on. If there is anything, I can do to support you, please get in touch.
- My Private Members Bill to ban Botox and derma fillers for under 18s, was yesterday granted Royal Assent. The “Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Act” will require a doctor, registered medical practitioner, or a health professional to administer such procedures where there is a medical need for under 18s – a requirement which is currently not in place. This Act is the first law of its kind on the cosmetics industry and finally brings Botox and fillers in line with tattooing and teeth whitening.
- I was delighted to hear The Stag at Sevenoaks was awarded £211,908 as part of the second round of funding from the Culture Recovery Fund. I have been so impressed by the enormous amount of work the Town Council, District Council and particularly the leadership of The Stag have put in to keeping the theatre going in this difficult period, and I know the support from Government has, and continues, to make a huge difference. For nearly 90 years, The Stag has been at the beating heart of Sevenoaks - and it must remain so. The role in plays in our community has never been clearer, and I will continue to offer my full support to ensure its survival until normality is restored.
- Following the hugely successful local rollout of the Vaccine, I visited Sevenoaks Pharmacy, who have now administered their 10,000th Covid vaccination. The pharmacy was the first independent chemist in Kent to offer the vaccine, and since 28th January they have worked from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, administering on average 150 jabs a day. I met with Data Manager Krunal Barot; Operations Manager Dipak Patel; and Pharmacist Hinal Makwana who alone has vaccinated over 6,000 people. I was also greeted by volunteer Stan Willis who has been working tirelessly alongside his fellow volunteers to support the operation and I know from my Dad’s experience there how welcoming they have been. I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all involved. We are all immensely grateful and our community is a safer place because of your hard work.
- We are lucky to locally have many outstanding community leaders and earlier this month I had to chance to meet with Vicar Johnny Douglas from St Peter’s Church in Hextable. Johnny very kindly gave me a tour of the new community centre which, when completed, will be open for all, religious or non-religious. It is clear to see the years of hard work have paid off and the centre will be a marvellous asset to the community. I would also like to thank Cllr Michael Horwood who has used his Kent County Council members fund to support the site.
- As many of you will know, I have been pushing Highways England to implement safety measures at the Gracious Lane Bridge before there is another tragic loss of life. This is alongside the work of the parish council, residents, County Cllr Peter Lake and Sevenoaks District Councillors, who have been voicing concerns on the bridge over a number of years. Last year, I was pleased Highways England agreed that work would commence in March/April 2021. However, I have since received notice that they will not now be starting until the summer. I have asked for more information as to what has caused the delay, but I know an initial survey has indicated that due to the age of the bridge, strengthening works will be required first in order to incorporate the raised parapet and anti-climb measures. I have made it clear that I, and the local community, do not expect these much needed and potentially lifesaving works to be delayed any further. As soon as I hear more, I will update you again.
- The last 12 months have been incredibly hard for businesses, especially those in the hospitality sector. However, it is truly heart-warming to read of the many success stories which have also emerged. This month I, alongside Kent County Council candidate Perry Cole, visited the kitchen of Ron Nulud from The Noypi Chef in Swanley. Ron was previously a noodle chef in London, however, sadly was made redundant due to the pandemic. He began making food for local people from his home – however quickly outgrew the facilities and was offered use of a kitchen at the Olympic so he could respond to demand. What was supposed to be a temporary endeavour has proved to be a huge success and it was great to hear from Ron himself regarding his future plans to stay. I wish Ron and his team the very best of luck and urge all local residents to try out his food for themselves.
- To celebrate the reopening of retail, I visited New Ash Green to meet with local businesses and hear about their recovery plans from the pandemic. I met with Councillor David Brazier, County Council Member for Sevenoaks Rural North East, to discuss the New Ash Green Shopping Centre - and in particular his efforts to obtain funding for improvements. I also had a chance to meet Shani Manamperi from The Village Bakery, Gary and Nicola Forster from Pets Pantry and Hardware and the fantastic team from the Co-op, including Tracy Wood, who not only is a “member pioneer” for the Co-Op locally (carrying out community liaison) but also part of the brilliant team at the Community Cupboard in West Kingsdown. All have been open throughout the pandemic, offering a vital service for local residents.
- In advance of their Easter show, I visited Dunton Green Primary School with Silly Billy and Lady Corona from Sevenoaks Panto, to film scenes for their weekend broadcasts, which helped guide children on how to stay safe as lockdown restrictions begin to lift.
- And finally, to mark the reopening of outdoor sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses, sports pitches and courts I visited Sevenoaks Lawn Tennis Club and Knole Park Gold Club. I also visited Knole Academy, alongside Cllr Margaret Crabtree, to discuss how the return to school has been for students and teachers. Thank you to all those involved with the successful reopening. I know the last year has been incredibly difficult, but the classroom remains the best place for our young people to learn and it was great to see the school gates open once again.