Michael has warned commuters that more work is needed to secure the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks.
At a recent meeting with the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, Department for Transport officials warned that the extension of the network, which had been due to take place in 2018, was not guaranteed.
Following recent reports about uncertainty over the future of the South East Flexible Ticketing (SEFT) scheme), Michael secured assurances that SEFT will be rolled out to Sevenoaks by the end of the year. SEFT will benefit season ticket holders, providing them with a single plastic card that will also work on TfL services.
Michael also received a guarantee that future decisions about bringing improvements like Oyster to Sevenoaks would not be affected by the installation of SEFT.
Michael said: “SEFT will be rightly welcomed by season ticket holders but it is no replacement for Oyster. Despite fresh uncertainty over a 2018 introduction date, this is not the end of the line. I promised to bring Oyster to Sevenoaks and that’s what I will do.”
Michael has helped to secure victory in the campaign to continue the use of vellum for printing Acts of Parliament.
On Wednesday evening, he joined MPs from all parties in supporting a backbench motion to oppose the decision by the House of Lords to unilaterally end the use of vellum. The Commons voted 117 to 38 to approve the motion.
Michael said: “I was proud to vote for this motion. Vellum is a vital part of our national heritage. The strong cross-party support of the House of Commons for its continued use is welcome. The short-sighted attempt to end this tradition must now cease.”
Local calligrapher Patricia Lovett, who was in Parliament to watch the debate, said: “The success of the campaign is an indication of how democracy can work. I am so grateful to Michael Fallon for the interest that he has shown in the campaign, his support, and the work he has done to ensure that the significance of vellum and the actual cost, £37,000, was made known in Westminster.”
Michael has launched a defiant defence of Sevenoaks Hospital following the announcement that King’s College Hospital Trust is to withdraw its services.
He recently demanded assurances that the hospital will remain open from the local Clinical Commissioning Group and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, which operates the other services at the hospital.
In a response, Dr Bob Bowes, Clinical Chair of West Kent CCG, confirmed that all patients seen under existing arrangements will either continue to be seen at Sevenoaks, but by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust staff, or will transfer their appointments to Princess Royal University Hospital.
Dr Bowes also confirmed that Sevenoaks Hospital is part of a wider review of local health services. Michael is concerned about this process and will continue to watch developments closely.
Michael said: “I have always defended Sevenoaks Hospital against the threat of closure. I am as determined as ever to protect the vital services it offers for local people. I want to see more services in Sevenoaks, not less.”
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Michael is currently awaiting a response from Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust and has requested a meeting with the Chief Executive.
In his latest monthly column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the need to improve broadband provision in Sevenoaks:
Over Parliament’s February recess, I visited the Falkland Islands in the first trip by a UK Defence Secretary in more than a decade. As well as meeting islanders and military personnel, I paid my respects to those who died in the 1982 war. Britain is committed to the Falkland Islands and they have a bright future ahead of them.
Sevenoaks’ own bright future is always at the forefront of my mind. In particular, we must ensure that our town has the better, faster broadband it needs. Our local economy is buoyant, with over 500 more businesses set up and a 60 percent reduction in unemployment across my constituency since 2010. But, as the Chamber of Commerce has confirmed to me broadband is vital for the continued success of local businesses.
Superfast broadband expansion is as essential today as the introduction of gas, electricity and water networks in past centuries. The Government has put aside £1.7 billion, of which over £17 million has been spent in Kent. Progress has already been made: as of June 2015, superfast broadband availability in my constituency had reached 76 percent. But this needs to make more difference on the ground where there are still big gaps, particularly in more rural areas, for our businesses to prosper.
We must also ensure that we keep up with a world that is becoming faster and faster. With speeds of at least 100 megabits per second, ultrafast broadband is the future – and yet availability was at only 1.2 percent in June.
I will shortly be launching a fresh campaign to ensure that our town and local businesses have what they need to flourish. For a bright future, Sevenoaks needs better broadband; now and for years to come.
In the first of a new monthly column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about his support for a new GP surgery in Dunton Green:
Following our grammar school success and with renewed progress on the Oyster campaign, with this new monthly column I will be keeping you up to date about my work as your Member of Parliament.
One of the best parts of my job is spending Friday and the weekend visiting different parts of my constituency. I look in on schools and businesses, I meet residents, and of course I hold my monthly advice surgeries in both Sevenoaks and Swanley.
Recently, I spent time focusing on healthcare and the challenges that our growing and ageing population will bring to Sevenoaks. We need more GP places and I believe a new medical facility in Dunton Green could help.
This is not just about Dunton Green, though with the ongoing development at Ryewood this is a rapidly growing area. It’s a valuable opportunity to relieve the rising pressure on other surgeries, securing benefits for residents across Sevenoaks.
I also met West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group which oversees our GP services. As they made clear, it is important to create a long-term plan for GP provision in Sevenoaks – but we must also deal with the immediate situation. Several local surgeries are already full and without timely action the situation could worsen.
We also need to look again at Sevenoaks Hospital and make sure that we are making fullest use of all the services provided there. The NHS is much more than the big district hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley; it works best where it’s local and loved.
Michael has welcomed the news that West Kingsdown Medical Centre will remain open after he intervened.
After a number of patients raised concerns with him, Michael pressed NHS England South East and Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG to find a solution that maintained a local GP service in West Kingsdown.
Following his intervention, NHS England South East have announced that new local GPs will take over the medical centre, ensuring continuity for patients and opportunities for improved care.
Michael said: “This is excellent news. West Kingsdown needs its own surgery and I am glad that the NHS and the local CCG have listened to the concerns of local people and their representatives. I will continue to monitor the issue to ensure that the transition is as seamless as possible.”