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Better Answers Wanted from Southeastern

southeasternSevenoaks MP Michael Fallon met Southeastern Chief Executive David Statham on Friday (16th) to review the first days of timetable changes at London Bridge and to register his constituents’ dissatisfaction with the current services.

After the meeting Mr Fallon said:  “Sevenoaks commuters have too few options.  The current tube and bus concessions should be extended to other stations, including Victoria and Bank.  I am pressing TfL to look again at the potential numbers at each station.

“There is still too much confusing information.  Apps, websites and station indicators are all reporting slightly different service information.  I want Southeastern to speed up a single version of the truth so that all passengers have the same information at the same time.

London Bridge Station
London Bridge Station

“David Statham will be travelling in from Sevenoaks early one morning this coming week, and I will be at London Bridge on Tuesday evening to see for myself if the peak hour crowd handling has improved.

“I have pressed Southeastern on compensation. The length of the London Bridge works and the uncertainty about the actual effect on journey times as the works move into the next phases, justify a discount for season ticket holders.  I also believe that there is a strong case for reducing the compensation threshold to 20 minute delays, at least for the period of the rebuild, and I have asked Southeastern to cost this.

“Finally I have asked Southeastern to be ready to make minor changes as necessary, for example to train lengths, without waiting for the next formal timetable reviews.”

Supporting Otford Small Businesses

Mille Fleurs Otford
Mille Fleurs Otford

Michael joined members of the West Kent branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Otford today to provide support and advice to their members.  Among the shops he visited in the High Street were Mille Fleurs (bespoke hats) and the Bill Skinner Studio (bespoke jewellery).

Jane Cave has been a milliner since 1982 and set up the shop Mille Fleurs in 1997.  The shop also hosts a workshop, where bespoke hats are made on-site using traditional millinery techniques.

The Bill Skinner Studio creates collections using traditional techniques as well as state-of-the-art technology such as 3D printing.  The company employs 14 people at three different locations and exports internationally following extensive restructuring three years ago.

Bill Skinner Studio Otford
Bill Skinner Studio Otford

Michael said: “The small business rate-relief has helped many businesses.  However, I am also keen to support the cutting of red tape in any way possible.  Small businesses in small villages don’t get the same footfall as in the larger towns.  There is strong competition from the internet  so anything that we can all do to help to promote local small businesses must be worthwhile.”

Speaking Up For Sevenoaks Rail Commuters

Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon is due to meet the new Chief Executive of Southeastern Rail, David Statham, and Network Rail managers in the next week to discuss the closure of London Bridge Station, rail fares and the general standard of service offered to commuters.

Michael said:  Sevenoaks commuters deserve a better standard of service. I will be calling on Network Rail and Southeastern to work more closely together to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum. I will also continue press for commuters to be allowed to use alternative stations to complete their journey at no additional cost for the duration of the disruption.

Rail fares increases have been at the maximum allowed each year. Commuters are already paying very large amounts – it’s time they had a break.”

Small Business Saturday – 6th December

Small Business SaturdaySmall Business Saturday is a day to celebrate our all our small businesses and encourage everyone to support them in the next few weeks and beyond.

Michael said:  “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy.  They have played an instrumental part in creating jobs here in Sevenoaks and Swanley and are vital to our continued economic prosperity.

“I am urging us all to think ‘small’ on Saturday, 6th December and in the future – to support all the small businesses in our local communities.”

Sevenoaks Christmas Lights

Michael with Town Mayor Cllr Simon Raikes
Michael with Town Mayor Cllr Simon Raikes
and with Compere Cllr Graham Clack
and with Compere Cllr Graham Clack

Many congratulations to Sevenoaks Town Partnership for a magnificent show of Christmas lights which were turned on by the Town Mayor, Cllr Simon Raikes this evening.

 

 

Best wishes to all the shops and businesses in the town for a very prosperous and rewarding time in the run-up to Christmas 2014.

Re-opening for Seal Butcher

Master Butcher Robert Martin with Barclays Business Manager Wendy Stevens and Michael
Master Butcher Robert Martin with Barclays Business Manager Wendy Stevens and Michael

HW Coldbreath Butchers is a historic firm which traces its origins to 1861.  The business, now run by Master Butcher Robert Martin, is being expanded with support from Barclays.  It closed recently for refurbishment for several weeks but it is now back in action with more space and better equipment.

Robert was trained by his late father, Chris, who had over 40 years’ experience in supplying premium quality meat and poultry having taken over the business in 1976.

Michael performed the re-opening ceremony, congratulated Robert and his team on the new look premises and wished them well for the future.

Coldbreath Butchers' Hog Roast
Coldbreath Butchers’ Hog Roast

The Martin family has a prize-winning herd of cattle based at Ightham which provides the business with its own home-grown beef.  Their commitment to quality means that they have expanded beyond their loyal local customer base and now supply the National Trust, local independent schools, restaurants and golf clubs.  They also have a popular catering service which specialises in hog roasts – one of which was being put on at the time of the re-opening.

Electrical Contractors’ Association

Darren Wetherill, Regional Chairman ECA South East Region and Managing Director of DW Electrical Limited Philip Hamblett, ECA Eastbourne Branch Chairman and Contracts Manager of N. Smith Electrical Limited Carolyn Mason, ECA Head of Education & Training, and Kevin Bush, ECA Regional Manager, South East region
L to R:   Darren Wetherill, Regional Chairman ECA South East Region and Managing Director of DW Electrical Limited, Michael Fallon MP, Kevin Bush, ECA Regional Manager, South East region, Carolyn Mason, ECA Head of Education & Training and Philip Hamblett, ECA Eastbourne Branch Chairman and Contracts Manager of N. Smith Electrical Limited

The ECA’s south-east regional office is based in Sevenoaks and Michael met ECA staff and representatives from member companies today to discuss their concerns over proposed changes to apprenticeship funding.

The ECA has some 2,800 members ranging from local electricians to national companies with several branches employing thousands of contractors.  Around 80% of the membership is made up of SMEs.

Potential solutions to help small businesses to continue to employ and train apprentices by reducing extra bureaucracy and red tape were covered.  Michael agreed to report back to Nick Boles MP, the Government’s Skills Minister with the very useful points that were raised at the meeting.

New Grammar School Provision for Sevenoaks

Press release from Kent County Council:

Work is ready to start in the next few months in Sevenoaks to build a new grammar school annexe, the first for 20 years.

weald of kentThe Weald of Kent Grammar School Academy Trust has now submitted its proposal, in line with the requirement identified by Kent County Council to develop the new annexe to the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan.

Planning consent has already been obtained to build the school on the old Wildernesse School site in Seal Hollow Road and contractors are ready to start work, subject to the Secretary of State’s sign-off.

Kent County Council understands that the submission by the all-girls Weald of Kent is compliant with the regulations set up by the coalition government to establish a new grammar school annexe for girls.

Leader of Kent County Council Paul Carter said: “I am delighted that we now have a robust proposal to put to the Secretary of State for her sign-off.  School rolls are rising dramatically and we must be allowed to expand grammar schools in line with all other categories and types of school.  This is good news for parents with daughters and we will continue to work in earnest to find a solution for their sons.

“I am also delighted by the support from Theresa May and Michael Fallon for the establishment of further grammar school provision in their constituencies.”

Mr Fallon said: “I am delighted to support this proposal from the Weald of Kent Grammar School for a satellite annexe in Sevenoaks.

“It remains deeply unfair to parents in my constituency that we are the only area in Kent not to have a grammar school. This proposal will not only go some way to eliminating this injustice, but also produce the additional places we need in west Kent.

“I hope the Secretary of State makes a speedy decision.”

David Bower, Chair of Governors at Weald of Kent Grammar School said:  “As the existing provider of education to 500 pupils from Sevenoaks we believe Weald of Kent is ideally placed to establish an annexe, offering an additional 90 places per year group.

news-secondary-admissions-2015“Recognised by Ofsted as ‘Outstanding’ we are confident in our ability to deliver the highest quality of education possible for the children in Sevenoaks and that we can extend our unique ethos to embrace students and staff across a split site operation to feel part of a single community.”