Michael today hailed a local ‘success story’ as he joined local parents and children to open the Children’s Workshop’s new building in Sevenoaks.
The pre-school was formerly located at Sevenoaks Rugby Club but decided to move to new and improved premises last year. Michael assisted the school as it sought to secure planning permission for its new timber-clad building on the edge of Lady Boswell’s School. Permission was granted in October 2015 after special consideration was granted.
Michael spoke about the importance of pre-school education for working families in Sevenoaks before the building was formally opened by Mr Bloom from CBeebies with the firing of a confetti cannon.
Michael said: “I have been proud to support the Children’s Workshop’s move and I was delighted to attend today. The new building is a success story, demonstrating what can be achieved when local communities come together. It will provide a vital service that benefits both parents and children for many years to come.”
Last May, I was honoured to be elected for the fifth time as your Member of Parliament.
Since the election, I have continued to work hard on behalf of all of my constituents. I hold two advice surgeries each month, as I have done consistently since 1997, and I regularly raise issues and concerns on your behalf. My Westminster office also deals with hundreds of emails and enquiries every week. I work closely with our county, district, town and parish councillors, as well as other organisations such as Kent Police, the Citizens Advice Bureau and West Kent Housing.
I remain closely involved in campaigns across Sevenoaks and Swanley. From fighting to save Hextable Dance Studio to defending Sevenoaks Hospital, I am proud to support my constituents and fight for our communities.
Supporting our local schools
I am a strong supporter of schools across my constituency. Since the election I have visited schools in Westerham, Sundridge, Swanley, Sevenoaks, and elsewhere to speak to pupils and answer their questions about my work as MP.
Winning our campaign to secure grammar school provision last October was probably my best ever day as your MP. This decision was long in coming but the priority now is to get this annexe built and open for local parents and pupils. My next goal is to secure grammar provision for boys and I am working on this.
Getting a better deal for commuters
Our ageing railways cause a huge amount of frustration for commuters and passen
gers. Disruption may be the price of the vital work at London Bridge – but passengers need to know why they are delayed and what is being done about it. I was concerned to learn on a recent train cab ride that drivers are often unable to inform passengers about ongoing disruption and slow running while their train is in operation. Making sure drivers and passengers have rapid, clear and sufficent information is essential. I will continue to raise these issues with Southeastern to make rail travel easier for my constituents.
Bringing Oyster to Sevenoaks was another promise I made at the general election. Rail passengers have waited long enough and I will be meeting the Rail Minister again shortly to push for a definite date.
Fighting for our NHS services
I am committed to our local NHS. We need to see more services in Sevenoaks, not fewer. That’s why I have continued to defend Sevenoaks Hospital against the threat of closure. The withdrawal of some clinics was concerning but I have secured assurances that these vital services will continue to be available for local people.
Protecting GP services is also important. There is a review of GP provision underway and I will ensure the views of local people are fully represented. The NHS is so much more than the big district hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley; it works best where it is local and loved.
Boosting our local economy
In Sevenoaks and Swanley, our local economy is strong. Compared with 2010, there are 600 fewer people out of work, including 200 fewer young unemployed, and we have 600 more businesses. I see evidence of this progress on each of my regular constituency days. Since the election, I have visited businesses, shops and local sites throughout the constituency and I have more visits already planned for the next few months.
But there is still more to do to support our local economy. Broadband is a key issue that businesses and the Chamber of Commerce continue to raise with me. I have recently begun a fresh campaign to demand further action from BT. We need to make sure our local businesses and those who work from home have the broadband they need to thrive, wherever they are based.
Michael has announced that he is ‘reassured’ after a recent visit to Sevenoaks Hospital.
His visit came following recent changes to the outpatient services offered by Sevenoaks Hospital.
Following significant local concern, Michael secured assurances from West Kent CCG and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, that Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust would take over the clinics previously offered by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
Michael was met at the hospital by David Griffiths, Chairman of Kent Community Health, Paul Bentley, Chief Executive, matron Rachel Nicholls and other representatives. They showed him the hospital’s wards and the Minor Injuries Unit, before accompanying him to Darent House, the former site of the Knole Centre. Mr Griffiths and Mr Bentley then briefed Michael on the latest developments at the hospital.
Michael said: “There has been some concern in Sevenoaks about the future of our hospital. Having visited, I am reassured that it will retain its vital role in our local NHS, taking pressure off acute hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley. We need more local NHS care, not less, and I will continue to press for even more services to deliver the healthcare we need at Sevenoaks Hospital.”
On Friday, Michael opened The Vales, a new affordable housing development near Bat & Ball Station in Sevenoaks.
The development is owned by Moat Homes, which has worked in collaboration with SDC to build 11 new properties. The properties are a mixture of shared ownership and affordable rent homes.
Michael spoke to the assembled guests, which included representatives from SDC and Moat and several of the new residents. He congratulated Moat on the development, which is built on the site of the former ambulance station, before joining guests for a tour of the new properties.
Michael said: “I was delighted to open The Vales. We need more housing in Sevenoaks but we also want to protect our environment and the Green Belt. This innovative scheme is an example of how collaboration between councils and developers is reinforcing the bottom rung of the housing ladder, helping young families to work towards owning their own home.”
Last Friday Michael visited Age Concern’s charity shop in the heart of Swanley. The recently-refurbished shop supports the work of Rural Age Concern Darent Valley.
Michael is a strong supporter of the charity’s services, which include the Cottage Day Centre in Fawkham.
Michael was met by Chief Officer Liam Curran, who showed him the state-of-the-art till system that has been introduced into the shop. They were joined by local district councillor Fay Parkin and some of the charity’s Trustees.
On his latest regular day in Sevenoaks and Swanley, Michael also visited local businesses and met Chief Inspector Roscoe Walford of Kent Police to receive an update on falling crime levels in the constituency.
Michael has visited the Falkland Islands this week in the first visit by a UK Defence Secretary in more than a decade.
He spent time with islanders and MOD personnel in the capital Stanley and other sites, witnessing some of the construction work which is taking place as part of a £180m, 10-year commitment to modernise the defensive infrastructure of the islands. The £180m upgrade package includes £60m to improve the power station at Mount Pleasant Camp, £22m to improve facilities at the berths in Mare Harbour, and £20m of work on accommodation at Radar Heads.
As well as meeting current military personnel he also visited key locations from the 1982 conflict, including at Goose Green and San Carlos, and paid his respects to those who died on both the British and Argentinian sides.
Michael said: “This was an important opportunity to hear about life on the islands and the potential for economic development that will bring more jobs and prosperity. The right of the islanders to determine their own future was settled over 30 years ago and confirmed by the recent referendum.
Now we want to build a better relationship with the new Argentinian government, as neighbours in the South Atlantic and fellow G20 members.”
Last Friday, Michael was delighted to meet Pat Moore, a veteran of the Second World War D-Day campaign, at Pat’s home in Sevenoaks.
Pat has recently received the Legion d’Honneur from the French government in recognition of his service. Michael personally intervened after Pat experienced delays in receiving the award.
Pat said: “I met Michael and showed him my award. We talked about my time in the war and his own family’s military history as his Grandfather was a Royal Engineer. The award is a great honour and I’m looking forward to receiving it formally in March at Graye-Sur-Mer, Normandy.”
Michael also visited the Sevenoaks studio of scribe and illuminator Patricia Lovett MBE. He learned about the differences between materials such as vellum and parchment and listened closely to Patricia’s concerns about current plans to use paper instead of vellum
for printing Acts of Parliament.
Patricia said: “I was delighted to welcome Michael to my studio. Michael has been really helpful and most supportive of the Heritage Crafts Association’s campaign about continuing to print Acts of Parliament on vellum and we really appreciate his interest and considerable influence on this.”
Commenting on his visits, Michael said: “I was very pleased to meet Pat again and congratulate him on his award. He is a war hero and this award from the French is a well-deserved recognition of his participation in the D-Day campaign in particular. I am sure he will make the most of the formal presentation later this year.
I was also pleased to be able to visit Patricia’s studio. Vellum is an important part of our national history and Patricia’s incredible knowledge and skill suggests that it will continue to be so for many years to come. I will be urging my parliamentary colleagues to continue the use of vellum.”
On Friday, Michael visited The Darent Wax Company Limited in his Sevenoaks constituency.
Michael was shown around the site by Anthony Ward, who founded the business in 1984, and manager Louis Finlayson-Green. They discussed how as the local MP he could support the company’s desire to expand into new premises elsewhere in the constituency.
Michael was particularly impressed by the hardworking team, many of whom live locally and whose skills the company are keen to retain.
The company is a leader in the wax industry with its head office and production facilities based in the Sevenoaks constituency.
Michael said: “It was a great pleasure to be shown around Darent Wax by Tony and Louis today. Small- and medium- sized businesses like this are the lifeblood of our local economy, creating more jobs and prosperity, and I will be supporting future expansion in any way I can.”