This latest edition of my newsletter does not open with good news. As I write, the transmission rate of Coronavirus is increasing, with cases doubling nationally between every nine and 14 days. This latest news necessitates a shift in how we think about the virus – from something that is short-lived to something that we, sadly, have to learn to live with until a vaccine or cure is found.
There is a delicate balancing act between battling Coronavirus and the impact on livelihoods that curtailment of our economy would inflict. There is no easy answer, and I have witnessed from both sides the devastation the virus can cause for families, as well as the enormous stress and impact from losing your job or business.
What we have seen from the Government is a balance in terms of restrictions and economic support. The rule of six is very difficult – especially for larger families, but socialising between households in our area is still allowed as long as you keep the rules in mind. On the economic side, the Chancellor's Winter Plan will help protect viable jobs, but it cannot protect every job in perpetuity. This is not an easy message, but it is one that is necessary as we fight to keep our economy going and our public finances under control as we confront this virus.
Many of you have been in touch with me over the last few weeks to express the difficulties you are having accessing local COVID-19 tests. I am very concerned about the situation - especially as the majority who have been in touch to date are parents of children. I have raised each case I am aware of with the Department of Health and the COVID-19 complaints team individually and as a matter of urgency. My understanding is vast improvements have since been made locally. However, if you, or anyone you know, has struggled to source a test please do not hesitate to get in touch with my office and I will continue to raise every case.
I know many of you will be feeling nervous about the months ahead but if we stick together and follow the rules as best we can, we will get through this. If I can be of support to anyone, please do not hesitate to contact myself and the team 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 part of my campaign to tackle antisocial behaviour, I asked the Minister for Housing, Christopher Pincher, to pledge that people across Sevenoaks and Swanley suffering from neighbours committing antisocial behaviour will now be able to act. The Minister confirmed that landlords can now use new powers to remove tenants who are committing antisocial behaviour. This is welcome news and I am delighted my call for action has been listened to and acted upon.
- In my column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, I set out my thoughts on the Government’s planning White Paper, and the housing allocation algorithm. I know this is an area of concern to many of you and I have already met with the Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, alongside Peter Fleming (our excellent District Council Leader) to voice my disquiet. I am using your comments and feedback as part of my ongoing conversations, and I would encourage all constituents with an interest in this topic to also contribute to the Government consultation which can be found here.
- Maternity services are an issue very close to my heart, and I am delighted to have joined the campaign to encourage more NHS trusts across the country to ensure no woman goes through pregnancy scans or labour without a partner or close family member present. At a Health and Social Care Committee session with the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, I also asked what steps his department is taking during the pandemic to ensure maternal safety, access for partners and neonatal care.
- During Oral Questions with the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, I asked him to pledge his support for the Stag Theatres theatre’s forthcoming application to the Culture Recovery Fund. And, if it is saved and we can go ahead, I am delighted he also agreed to attend the annual pantomime with me.
- I joined my neighbour and colleague, Gareth Bacon MP, in writing to the Broadband Minister, Matt Warman, to ask the Government to invest in better broadband for rural areas across Sevenoaks and Orpington. So many aspects of our day-to-day lives are dependent on being online and therefore we must improve our local connectivity.
- September marked both Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and the 30th anniversary of Macmillan cancer coffee mornings. Since becoming an MP, I have already seen the devastating impact such an illness can have on families, and I know that this year - more than ever - the pandemic has bought additional challenges to what is already an incredibly difficult and challenging time. I will continue to push for more help and support for children and families going through unimaginable pain.
- Over Zoom, I met with MPs from Kent and northern France, in the first of what we hope will be a regular series of close discussions on cross-Channel issues. It was a productive meeting, allowing colleagues from the House of Commons and the National Assembly to learn more about each other’s constituencies, and our governments’ and constituents’ respective positions on migration, fishing, tourism and cross-Channel trade.
- I spoke in the Backbench Business Debate on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This scheme has supported 12,200 people across Sevenoaks and Swanley and has offered a lifeline of support for many notable local businesses, including The Bricklayers Arms in Chipstead. I raised in detail during my speech the support the scheme has had for women and urged the Government to now look forward and focus on retraining and creating new jobs.
- I welcomed the Sentencing White Paper, particularly the extension of minimum terms for sexual and violent offences, and the power to end automatic early release. I have spoken before about my desire to end the use of standard determinate sentences (when the parole board is not involved before release) for rape. I therefore asked the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, to consider this as part of the White Paper, so that the safety of the public is always considered before the perpetrator is released into society.
- I was lucky enough to visit the brilliant Howard Venue this month and see the amazing work that they are doing for the community, along with visits to Sevenoaks Football Club, 3 of our brilliant local state secondary schools and a litter pick in Swanley Park.
- And finally, earlier this year I partnered with Sevenoaks Chronicle to launch our Community Hero awards, which recognised those who were making outstanding contributions during this crisis to the local community. I was overwhelmed with the number of applications received, and while 10 weekly heroes were awarded, I wanted to also congratulate and thank all those who were nominated. I have now written to all the nominees personally, and to demonstrate the amazing work I listed on my Facebook those who were happy to be recognised publicly.
To view my newsletter online please visit: https://mailchi.mp/057a9e001b3e/september-newsletter-2020
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