As you will know, from this week groups of six or two households are allowed to meet outside, and outdoor sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses, sports pitches and courts have reopened. It was great to visit Sevenoaks Lawn Tennis Club and Knole Park Golf Club on Monday to see them successfully reopening, and to see people back at these clubs again. I know these next steps will come as a massive relief after a challenging few months.
We are seeing a very welcome reduction in our infection rates both locally and nationally. Our vaccination programme continues to make great progress, but I have seen claims circulating on social media which argue that given the majority of the most vulnerable are now protected, there is less pressure for vaccination amongst younger age groups. This is simply not true. If young people don’t get vaccinated, there will continue to be a large amount of virus circulating in our community; this will in turn lead to a larger number of older people being affected for whom the vaccine doesn't work or who haven’t been vaccinated. In this scenario we could see a surge in hospitalisations and deaths, as well as high rates of long Covid. We must not let this happen. Low virus rates should not lead to low vaccination rates; the threat remains very real, as we can see from what is currently happening in Europe.
The tragic murder of Sarah Everard this month led to an outpouring of grief online, with people sharing their own stories and experiences of violence. While abduction may be rare, incidents of women being harassed or attacked are nowhere near rare enough and we must use every possible tool to tackle violence against women and girls. This month I launched a survey so that you can all feed in experiences you have had locally, and provide any ideas on how we make our community safer. Please do share the following link with your friends and family: https://www.lauratrott.org.uk/have-your-say And, if anyone would like to discuss a specific issue with me, as ever, please contact my parliamentary address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your ongoing support, and please do not hesitate to get in touch if there is anything locally you would like to share with me. I hope you all have a very happy Easter.
MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley
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.
- As part of my four-point plan to address antisocial behaviour, I have previously spoken about the need for the Police to be able to quickly shut unauthorised and illegal traveller sites. I have been working hard in Parliament to ensure action is taken and I am delighted The Police and Crime Sentencing Bill includes provision which, once passed, will allow police officers the power to challenge illegal encampments of one vehicle or more. Antisocial behaviour has no home in our community and will not be tolerated.
- Local businesses and the self-employed have been hard hit in the last year, and I have done all I can to support them and make representations on their behalf. I was delighted that in the Budget a number of those conversations have been heard and answered, particularly with the restart grants, which will be vital to our high streets reopening. In my speech to the House of Commons I referenced Jenny Pollard, who is self-employed and runs a nail business in Otford, The Royal Oak Pub in New Ash Green, Danish Collection - Sevenoaks and Marco Sevenoaks. These are just a few of the many local people and businesses who have been offered a lifeline by the announcements of widened and continuing financial support.
- Across the Sevenoaks District, high street businesses are now preparing to reopen on 12th April and while the brilliant Sevenoaks District Council is doing all it can to support them, we’ve had some local issues with the implementation of the High Street Recovery Fund. I am delighted the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has agreed to meet with myself and representatives from the council to discuss how these issues can be overcome. Our high streets will play a pivotal part in our recovery, and I will always ensure their voice is heard in Westminster.
- Following the announcement that additional money will be allocated to school building repairs, I asked the Education Secretary to reassure teachers and parents at Orchard Academy in Swanley, and West Kingsdown CE Primary School that they will be prioritised. I know from my visits how urgently repair is needed, however money provided to date has not been sufficient to cover all the work. I have now met with both the Minister responsible for school repairs, as well as the Education Secretary to discuss how further progress can be secured. I will be updating you all in due course.
- Following an issue regarding the car park in Swanley Square, I am delighted CCP has confirmed that, further to interventions by myself and Swanley Town Council, they have cancelled all parking charge notices (PCN) between March 9-24th. From now on, drivers will not be penalised for driving along Nightingale Way, however a PCN will be issued to vehicles parking and waiting on the double red lines or kerbsides. I remain concerned about access to the two doctor surgeries, as well as the tickets who have been issued to residents who were timed above the 30 minute limit (which I appreciate will apply to those who went on to shop and park in Aldi). Conversations are therefore ongoing, and I will update you as soon as I know more.
- Last week I visited the soon to be opened Sevenoaks Town Council Business Hub, with Cllr Richard Parry, Chairman of Sevenoaks Town Council’s Community Infrastructure Committee, and Cllr Margaret Crabtree, Kent County Councillor for Sevenoaks Town. A Business Hub has been a long-term ambition of the Town Council and it was great to see it beginning to take shape.
- The Health and Social Care Committee held their first evidence session of our inquiry into ‘Children and Young People's Mental Health’ this month. As part of the session I raised with Dame Rachael de Souza, Children's Commissioner for England, the excellent mental health support teams currently in place at New Ash Green Primary School and asked her what impact we have seen nationally from such trailblazer programmes.
- A number of constituents have written to me with concerns about Network Rail’s proposal to remove the pedestrian crossing many residents use to cross the railway line south of Otford Station. We must of course make sure the crossing is safe, but we must also consider accessibility for the elderly and those with mobility problems. I have therefore written to both Network Rail and the Planning Inspectorate asking for them to consider other measures, including miniature stop lights. At a recently held meeting with Network Rail I was delighted they agreed to consider alternatives, so I hope a safe and accessible resolution to this matter can be reached. I will keep you all updated.
- This month I spoke with BBC Radio Kent to discuss my Private Members Bill, which will ban cosmetic Botox and fillers for under 18s. The Bill has now passed in the House of Commons and will be scrutinised in the House of Lords later this month, before hopefully being introduced later this year. No child needs such cosmetic treatments and I am delighted we have now moved one step closer to see this enforced in law.
- Speaking in the House of Commons, I asked the Justice Minister to provide an update on when a Nightingale Court in Kent, catering to those in Sevenoaks and Swanley, will be established. Victims of crime need swift access to justice, and I would like to see a Nightingale Court in Kent to help secure that.
- And finally, following my visit to the asymptomatic testing site in Sevenoaks, I asked the Defence Minister to join with me in thanking all the excellent military personnel who successful set up the sites both in Sevenoaks and Swanley. The 35 Engineer Regiment of the Royal Engineers managed the whole process swiftly and efficiently and made the experience as pleasant as possible for those visiting. I am glad they have now rightly been recognised in the House of Commons.