Welcome to my May newsletter,
Having last month taken the next step in the Prime Minister's roadmap to reduced COVID-19 restrictions, it has been amazing to see so many of our excellent hospitality businesses reopen their indoor spaces to customers. I know how tough the past year has been for our hospitality sector, so I have been making an extra effort to visit as many of our local pubs, restaurants and cafes as I can to support their reopening. It has been useful to hear first-hand from business owners about how essential Government support has been, and I have been feeding back concerns to Ministers about issues raised.
As you will know, since the beginning of the year I have been making a strong case for a Nightingale Court in Kent to be created and opened. I have met with the Justice Minister, Chris Philp MP, alongside our excellent Police and Crime Commission Matthew Scott to discuss the proposals, as well as raising the case on the floor of the House of Commons. Last week we heard the excellent news that our campaign had been successful and the court, situated at the Mercure Maidstone Great Danes Hotel is now operational. The court will carry out Crown Court work and provide an additional two hearing rooms on top of the current operational capability helping to reduce delays to cases, and deliver speedier justice for victims. This will also help reduce the drop off in cases, something that is a particular problem for domestic violence or sexual assault. Victims deserve swift justice so I am delighted that we now have the resources in place here in Kent to tackle the backlog.
Finally, I know we are all hopeful that we will be able to take the next step in the Prime Minister's roadmap later this month. Of course, any decision must be led by the data but I am following this very closely and will be sure to update you on my Facebook page as soon as a decision has been reached.
As ever, if I can help or support you please do not hesitate to get in touch with my office on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 we reached the next stage of the lifting of lockdown restrictions, it was a pleasure to meet Debbie Montagnon, the owner of Oaks Cafe Deli in Swanley. I was able to help Debbie with advice earlier in the pandemic, so it was lovely to meet her in person and catch up with how she has managed her business through an incredibly difficult year. Help from the Government has been a lifeline for so many businesses – but it is the hard work and determination of small business owners to get through the pandemic that has been so inspiring.
- It has been devastating for many families (including my own) not to be able to visit relatives or friends in hospital. I've heard so many heart-breaking accounts from constituents and I am clear that normal hospital visiting hours should be reinstated as soon as it is safe. I have previously campaigned on getting parents more access to hospital during the pandemic, and I recently asked the Prime Minister about updating the guidance to allow this to happen as soon as possible.
- I was delighted to visit Sevenoaks Bookshop owner Fleur Sinclair to congratulate her and the team for being crowned Independent Bookseller of the year for the UK and Ireland at the British Book Awards. Many businesses through no fault of their own have really struggled over the last year, but Sevenoaks Bookshop ended 2020 with sales growth and doubling the size of the shop through hard work, determination and great business acumen. We have so many high quality retailers in Sevenoaks, with more on their way, and success stories such as Sevenoaks Bookshop will only enhance the towns reputation further and help attract other great retailers. Congratulations once again to Fleur and all the team.
- Finally, I spoke in the Queen’s Speech debate earlier this month and I took the opportunity to reiterate the importance of protecting the green belt in any future planning reforms. I urged the Government to ensure the targets allow us to continue to protect our precious local Green Belt and areas of outstanding natural beauty which make Sevenoaks and Swanley such a special place to live.
- I recently visited the Portobello Inn in West Kingsdown to present Charmaine and Steve Powell with their certificate as runners-up in Pub Aid’s Community Pub Hero Parliamentary Awards 2021. At the height of lockdown, Charmaine and Steve went above and beyond providing free meals for local residents who were shielding, as well as donating extra food to our hardworking front-line NHS staff at Darent Valley Hospital (DVH). This was an extraordinary community effort that I was delighted to acknowledge when I chose them to be the first recipients of my Community Hero of the Week Award last year - as well as subsequently when I nominated them for the Community Pub Hero Parliamentary Awards. I want to take this opportunity to once again thank Charmaine and Steve for their hard work and wish the Portobello Inn every success as the Government lockdown restrictions begin to ease.
- On 6th May 2021, we had the local elections. I was out on the campaign trail supporting our excellent Conservative candidates and I was delighted to be able to meet so many local residents to discuss the issues that matter to you. It was a really hard-fought campaign and our hardworking candidates across the District made a real effort to meet as many local residents as possible during the lead up to the election. Congratulations to everyone who was elected this year and I am really looking forward to working with our newly elected councillors and Police and Crime Commissioner.
- On 21st May, I virtually visited students at Horton Kirby Primary School and Shoreham Primary School. During the visits I talked with the students about my role as the local MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley before taking questions. I love talking to students and it was great to see everyone back in the classroom again. If you would like me to do a similar visit at one of our local schools please do not hesitate to contact my office at email@example.com.
- It was a pleasure to get out on a walk with the Sevenoaks Northern Branch of “Every Step Counts” around Greatness Recreation Ground. The walk was organised by local district councillor Irene Collins who, along with councillor Anna Firth, set up “Every Step Counts” in order to promote health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. There are around 10 “Every Step Counts” wellbeing walking groups around the district. The walk was really well-attended, and it was a great to speak to a number of the walkers and hear their stories, particularly of how they benefit from the walks both physically and mentally. Everyone had a great afternoon and I highly recommend going along. If you would like to get involved, you can find your nearest walk here.