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More Welcome News: Extra Funding for Police

Michael has welcomed the extra funding for Police announced this week by the Government.

The Police Grant for 2018/19 will release around £450 million extra for policing next year, creating a better a balance between funding raised locally and nationally.

As Kent Police expands its recruitment programme, the new funding will enable the Chief Constable to enlist up to an additional 200 Police Officers next year, thereby boosting rural and road, local community and cyber-crime policing.

Since May 2016 Kent Police has recruited 80 extra Police Officers and protected PCSO numbers at 300, when other police forces have seen reductions.  Sir Michael inspected some of the latest police recruits at a passing out parade last October.

The announcement comes weeks after the Sevenoaks MP met the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, to review his funding proposals and press for the roll out of a more effective speed prevention system in villages such as Otford and Brasted.

Reacting to the announcement, Michael said: “While crime rates are falling, criminality is becoming increasingly complex.  So it’s right that our police in Kent get the funding they need to continue to protect us.”

Welcome News: Extra Funding for Kent

Michael has welcomed the extra funding for Kent announced today by the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

The announcement comes after Michael and other Kent MPs pressed the Communities Secretary to release additional funding in the forthcoming Local Government Finance Settlement and follows his visit to Sevenoaks yesterday morning.

In recognition of the growing need for Social Care, the Government is providing an extra £166 million Social Care Grant to Local Authorities across England for 2018/19.  Kent will get an additional £3.9 million next year.

Additionally, Kent County Council will benefit from being one of just 12 authorities piloting the retention of Business Rates, which is expected to generate around £25 million next year.

The Sevenoaks MP has also applied pressure on the Home Office to step up its support.  In a letter sent last week, Sir Michael said: “Kent continues to support more young asylum seekers than any authority in the country.

This is a national cost being covered by Kent residents.  Current grant funding from the Home Office is not adequate.”

Michael has pressed the Home Secretary Amber Rudd for an additional £8.6 million.

Children Should Switch Off Sometimes

Michael has supported the new Digital Sunset Challenge today, saying that children should “learn to switch off sometimes”.

The Digital Sunset Challenge was created by two local mums, Anna Firth and Linden Kemkaran, who want to encourage children to turn off their electronic devices at night and practice good digital habits.

Recent research by the Children’s Commissioner suggests that a growing number of under 13’s are using social media with 3 in 4 children aged 10-12 having their own accounts.  However, many parents struggle to divert their children’s attention away from the online world and back into the real world.

MF shows his support

The county-wide Challenge was launched today with the Sevenoaks MP and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, at Sevenoaks Primary School.

Michael joined local campaigners in calling on the Government to make the Digital Sunset Challenge a regular part of the transition PSHE for year 6 primary aged children by the end of the parliament.

He said: “Technology is a crucial part of daily life, but we should never be beholden to it.  Children need support in understanding how to regulate their use of pocket devices – it’s important that they learn to ‘switch off’ sometimes.”

MP Demands Transport Secretary’s Assurance

Michael has demanded the Transport Secretary’s assurance that the new Thameslink fast service will be delivered in full, following fresh fears that the future express service would be delayed “indefinitely”.

The new link – to run from Maidstone East through Swanley and Otford to the City – was set to begin at the end of this year.  But the start date was postponed until at least December 2019.

Worse still, the Sevenoaks MP discovered that the tendering documents for the new South East franchise operator asked for a cost analysis of the “indefinite” delay of the service.

He warned that this spelled bad news for families and businesses in his constituency and requested an immediate meeting with the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, which was granted.

Following the meeting, Michael said: “The Transport Secretary has committed to investigating why this paragraph was included in the Invitation to Tender.  He has also undertaken to provide further reassurance that the fast service will commence in December 2019 and will not be further postponed.”

Honouring Sikh Servicemen in Parliament

Michael has shown his support for Sikh servicemen at the launch of a campaign for a National Sikh War Memorial in Parliament this week.

The Sevenoaks MP and former defence secretary joined calls on the Government to support a memorial dedicated to those who made or were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of our country.

Though Sikhs made up only two per cent of the population of British India, they formed 20 per cent of the British Indian Army during the First World War.  More than 83,000 turbaned Sikh soldiers laid down their lives and more than 100,000 were injured during the World Wars.

Michael said: “I am proud to have attended the launch.  Given the scale of Sikh sacrifice in both World Wars, for which they volunteered, this is a great cause.”

Fallon on Importance of Diversity in Defence

Michael has criticised the lack of female defence ministers, saying it is a “mistake” that all five are male following Theresa May’s recent reshuffle.

The former defence secretary told of his “regret” at the “gap” left by the decision to move Harriett Baldwin from the Ministry of Defence to the Foreign Office.

As he spoke of the need for more women and ethnic minorities in the armed forces to reach top ranks, Michael said:

“If we are to attract more people from outside, more people where we are short, then we’ve got to show them that you can not only have a worthwhile career but that you can get on to the very top.

“And finally of course that applies to Government itself.  I too regret that after the recent reshuffle – and I’m not going to comment on how successful or not that reshuffle was – there is now no female defence minister.”

Speaking as MPs debated the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill at third reading in the Commons, he added:

“And as the matter has been raised, the House might wish to know that when the Prime Minister formed her first administration back in June 2016 and she was moving [Penny Mordaunt]

“I made it very clear that we needed to have at least one woman minister on the team and I was delighted that [Harriet Baldwin] was appointed as a defence minister.

“Now I congratulate her of course on her promotion to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but that does leave a gap – and it is a mistake, if I may put it as boldly as that to the Treasury bench, it is a mistake to have five defence ministers and to have them all male.

“If we are to get more women, and in the fullness of time more people from the ethnic minorities to join up, then we have to show that this kind of change is embedded there from the top.”

Measures in the Bill will give staff the choice to temporarily work part-time or restrict the amount of time they are posted away from their home base and their families.

Michael also said that the Government needed to work harder to bring women leavers back into the Armed Forces and not missing out on their experience, as well as ensuring those women can quickly recover the rank and entitlements they would have achieved had they not taken maternity leave.”

The Minister responded: “It was remiss of me not to have acknowledged the work of the former secretary of state who pioneered in this area – I know this is something he has long and continues to be passionate about, and that is reflected in his speech.”

Fresh Doubts over Thameslink Fast Service

Michael will meet Transport Secretary Chris Grayling next Tuesday after expressing fresh doubts over the deliverability of the delayed Thameslink fast service from Maidstone East yesterday morning.

During an interview on BBC Radio Kent, the Sevenoaks MP revealed he was “horrified” to learn that the Invitation to Tender document for the new South Eastern rail franchise outlines a hypothetical plan to delay the service “indefinitely”.

He said: “I’m now seriously beginning to wonder if this service will ever be delivered”.

The fast service was due to start in December 2018, but has been delayed until 2019 to enable the industry to reduce the risk of disruption to passengers from too much change on the network at any one time, according to the government.

Michael: “This is bad news for people in Maidstone East, but this also affects Otford and Swanley, because families, businesses, everyone has been looking forward to these regular express services to London for a long time.

My constituents in Sevenoaks have fast services to London through Southeastern.  The Thameslink trains from Maidstone East would balance the level of service in my constituency: that’s what we were promised, and that’s what we’re going to insist on.”

The Sevenoaks MP went on to say that while rail timetabling is “complicated”, local stakeholders “should at least insist that we have an hourly service, which would help reduce some of the peak capacity issues”.

Michael has lead the campaign to deliver the new Thameslink fast service in Kent.  He recently said the Transport Secretary’s decision to postpone the service betrays Kent commuters.

Michael: ‘Defence Needs More Money’

Michael has called on the government to give defence “more money” in the House of Commons today during a statement on the new defence review.

He said: “Is my Rt Hon Friend aware that he would have the support of the whole House if he were to secure additional funding for the pressures this year and next year Defence Review Statement 25th January 2018 standingbut then put the defence budget onto a more sustainable footing that allows our armed forces to tackle the increased threats that they face without these demoralising rumours of deep cuts.

The words here are interesting and they are important, but what really matters in the end is money – more money.”

The current defence secretary responded: “I’d like to thank my Rt Hon Friend for all that he has done for our Armed Forces.  Without his work, without his campaigning, we wouldn’t have been in a situation where we had a rising budget today, with the extra £4 billion worth of extra resources committed to our armed forces by the government.

I will certainly take on board his comments, and I notice his article in the Telegraph today which I thought set absolutely the right tone in terms of approach of how we take things forward, and I hope I have the opportunity to sit down with him to discuss how we get the balance right to make sure that we achieve everything that he has set out and built on for our armed forces over the past four years.

We do need to look at getting additional resources for our armed forces so that they have the capability to protect and truly defend Britain’s global interests both near and far.”

Watch the exchange here: https://goo.gl/7gqAot

Free Sports for Swanley

Michael recently attended a Swanley FC football training session to show his support for a new initiative to provide young people in Swanley with free access to a range of sports around the town.

The initiative is funded by Kent Police and the Crime Commissioners Office under one of PCC Mathew Scott’s grant initiatives.

The programme is designed to get young people involved in positive activities and provide them with just a taste of what activities Swanley has to offer.  Each activity runs for 6 weeks and the Town Council are currently providing Football on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday Lunch Times, Boxing Sessions on a Tuesday Evening and Survival Skills on a Saturday.  Working with the local Rugby Club, Junior Rugby Sessions will be available from March along with Tennis provided by a local Tennis Coach.

Michael attended a training session for 5-7 year olds run by Swanley FC coaches.  Michael said: “It was great to see such enthusiastic kids even in driving rain. Getting them outside is the key. Let’s hope some will go on to play for local youth teams”.

The funding has so far enabled six coaches to train in Football and Rugby, and 50 young people each week are learning new skills.

In addition to free sports sessions, the funding will pay for equipment such as rackets, trainers and sports strips, and will contribute to the transport costs of getting young people where they need to be.

Defence Spending

Daily Telegraph
 My much-missed friends in the military will be in two minds about the newly-announced defence review.  Another review, just two and a half years after the last one, means further uncertainty for all three services, for our amphibious forces, above all for the fine young men and women choosing now to embark on a career of service to our country.

On the other hand, we will all wish my successor Gavin Williamson well if Defence can achieve a more durable settlement with the Treasury. Throughout my three years the defence budget was always under pressure.  Almost every monthly meeting of the defence board that I chaired saw repeated calls for more money for over-running equipment programmes, for urgently needed improvements to housing and fuel infrastructure, for the much-delayed Astute submarines, for nuclear work at Aldermaston. We had to trim vital training, scale down exercises, or defer new missile systems.

In April 2016 we finally committed to the NATO 2 per cent and the budget increased after years of cuts, enabling us to invest in new frigates, maritime patrol aircraft, F35 fighters and armoured vehicles.  But it soon became clear that there would be growing pressures in the early years: nobody foresaw the drop in sterling (much MoD spend is in dollars); replacing the four Trident submarines exposed the need to spend more of that £31 billion earlier to achieve better long-term value.

And the efficiency savings on which part of the future equipment programme depended proved harder than anticipated for the front-line commands to deliver.  They had delegated budgets but were often reluctant to take delegated responsibility, preferring instead to offer up “bleeding stumps” to get Ministers to take the unpalatable decisions.  They took time to understand that efficiency is not a one-off exercise: large commercial organisations take out cost each successive year, ridding themselves of unnecessary land and buildings, sharing back-office functions, slicing layers of middle management.

A year ago I took all these concerns to the Prime Minister.  I warned that the depreciation of sterling and cost escalation in nuclear were putting severe pressure on the budgets for 17-18 and 18-19.  If we wanted to play a leading role in NATO, with our troops and Typhoons defending its eastern flank; to counter the Russian submarine threat to our deterrent and our cables in the North Atlantic; to go on bearing the second biggest load of air strikes and army training in Iraq; to go on supporting fragile democracies in Afghanistan and Nigeria, and to offer the UN more peace-keepers in Africa; then we had to put the defence budget onto a more sustainable footing.

In return I wanted to push all three services much harder on rooting out duplication – in everything from helicopters to logistics, medical and administrative functions – and to use their manpower more effectively and more collaboratively.  The new service chiefs were up for that challenge.

But work on sorting out the budget, tackling duplication and better prioritisation was halted for the snap election, and only picked up again last summer.

The new review must recognise that the threats to our country have significantly increased.  Before the invasion of Crimea Russia seemed innocuous: now we see its threat to the western democracies.  And Russia is spending not 2 per cent but 5 per cent of GDP on modernising its conventional and its nuclear forces, on hybrid and electronic warfare.

The Middle East and North Africa remain launchpads for further extremist attacks on our cities.  In the Pacific a nuclear North Korea threatens Japan and the United States– even London is within range.

Then there’s cyber, a threat from anywhere, anytime.  Our enemies can steal our information, disrupt our energy supplies, even our government systems.  A cyber warrior with a laptop and smart software can inflict huge financial and physical damage on individuals, companies and entire countries. State-based hackers can target our NHS and our Parliament.

Increased threats must mean a bigger budget.  As I told our party conference in October the NATO 2 per cent is only a minimum.  In the last year of the last century, 1997-98, the Blair government was spending 2.7 per cent.  That was before 9/11, before the attacks from Daesh, before Russia started changing international borders by force, before Kim threw missiles over Japan.

In the end this is about us.  If post-Brexit we are to play our proper part in the world, defending our shores and supporting our allies, championing our values and helping fragile democracies, then we should be more ambitious.  We should be leading in NATO, working with our friends in the Gulf, helping in Africa, and deploying further afield too.  Yes, insist on further and tougher efficiencies but relieve the immediate pressures on the budget and then set a new target to reach 2.5 per cent of GDP by the end of this Parliament.