Last Friday, Michael spent a busy day in Sevenoaks and Swanley. He visited Amherst School in the morning, answering pupils’ questions in a special assembly, before meeting local councillors in Swanley.
In the afternoon, he joined residents and staff of Gloucester House Nursing Home in Sevenoaks to celebrate its 25th anniversary celebrations.
Speaking about the visit, Michael said: “I was very pleased to help the staff and residents of Gloucester House to celebrate this anniversary. Speaking to the residents, it was clear that they have happy, fulfilled lives at the home thanks to its hardworking staff. That local, tailored approach is vital and we need to replicate it as much as possible.”
After speaking to residents, he travelled to Prime Place in the heart of Sevenoaks, where he joined the Mayor of Sevenoaks, Cllr Stephen Arnold, to open the new sales and marketing suite. Commenting on the opening, Michael said: “I first visited Prime Place, Sevenoaks last year, when it was little more than a building site. It’s a pleasure to see how much progress has been made and I look forward to seeing the completed development next year.”
On Friday, Michael opened the fifth annual Sevenoaks Business Show at the Stag Plaza.
In his speech, Michael spoke about the 600 new businesses that have been established in Sevenoaks since 2010 and the constituency’s historic low level of unemployment, which has fallen by sixty percent since 2010. He also referred to the Government’s support for the ‘South East Accelerator’ with lower business rates and corporation tax.
Michael concluded by saying: “This is the fifth annual show and each year there is more and more evidence of the incredible success of our local enterprises. I am always proud to be Patron of the Sevenoaks Town Partnership – but I am never more proud than when I open this annual Business Show.”
Following his speech, Michael spent time speaking to each of the 32 businesses with a stall at the show and meeting a number of local apprentices.
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.”
Michael is currently awaiting a response from Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust and has requested a meeting with the Chief Executive.
Michael was in Sevenoaks and Swanley on Friday 11th March for his latest busy constituency day.
He travelled in the cab of a Southeastern train to learn more about the impact of the ongoing work at London Bridge on the services used by his constituents every day.
Following this, he spoke to pupils at Combe Bank School in Sundridge, answering questions on issues such as defence and the EU referendum.
In Swanley, he accompanied local councillor Victor Southern to the Swanley Therapy Centre, which relies on charitable donations to offer oxygen treatment to local patients. He also visited Lockdecoders, a vibrant local business run by Victor’s son Peter.
Returning to Sevenoaks, he received a tour of the latest progress at Knole House, where significant restoration work is transforming the medieval site.
Michael ended the day with his monthly advice surgery in Sevenoaks.
Michael has announced that he has made further progress towards his manifesto commitment to bring Oyster to Sevenoaks.
Following a new commitment by Transport for London (TfL) to make a contribution towards the extension of the network, Mr Fallon will be seeking a joint meeting with TfL and the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, to push for action.
Michael said: “I welcome TfL’s strong support for the extension of Oyster to Sevenoaks. I am clear that Oyster is convenient and proven to work well. I made a commitment to the people of Sevenoaks to bring Oyster to our town and I intend to deliver it. I look forward to meeting with TfL and Claire Perry to make further progress.”
Evidence of strong local support is always important, so please click ‘Leave a comment’ to the left of this post if you believe Oyster should be extended to Sevenoaks.
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.”
Following the news that national campaign group Comprehensive Future will not be challenging the Government’s decision to approve a grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks, Michael said:
“It would have been outrageous for politically motivated national campaigners to attempt to block the expansion of a successful school that is strongly backed by the people of Sevenoaks and Kent County Council.
I welcome the news that the annexe can now start to be built, meaning that local parents will at last have the same choice of schools as elsewhere in Kent.
We need more good school places in Kent in academies, grammars, and free schools. Any successful school should be allowed to expand, so it is wrong to discriminate against grammar schools.”
This has been a successful year for Sevenoaks and Swanley. Unemployment in the constituency has continued to fall in the last twelve months from 492 to 435. And we have had other very positive news too.
In particular, I welcome the Government’s decision to approve Weald of Kent Grammar School’s application to open an annexe in Sevenoaks. This long-awaited decision will lead to more school places and more choice for local parents and pupils. There must now be no further delay.
Of course, there is still more work to do. From aircraft noise to local healthcare, I am committed to ensuring that the interests of my constituents are properly represented. I also remain resolute in my desire to secure the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks and I will be meeting with the relevant organisations in the spring to seek further progress towards this ambition.
I look forward to continuing to serve Sevenoaks and Swanley in Parliament in 2016. I would like to wish all of my constituents a very happy Christmas and New Year.
Michael has expressed concerns about the closure of the Knole Centre in his Sevenoaks constituency.
The centre provides neuro-rehabilitation care for patients across West Kent. It is run by Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT), which announced its intention to close the service earlier this year. This has taken place early due to concerns about safe staffing over Christmas.
Michael said: “Clearly this is not an ideal situation. People will be understandably concerned about the closure of the service just before Christmas. Ultimately, patient safety has to come first. If the Knole Centre is unable to guarantee patient safety then it is right that it closes.
I am confident that significant planning has gone into managing the immediate situation but I will be seeking assurances that the new permanent services will provide a high quality of local, personal care.”
Michael has warned commuters in the Sevenoaks constituency to be prepared for significant rail disruption over the Christmas period.
In addition to the regular reduced service level between Christmas and New Year, no trains will be stopping at Charing Cross, Waterloo East, Cannon Street or London Bridge from 8pm on Christmas Eve until 4am on Monday 4th January. Service frequency will begin to reduce from the afternoon of 24th December. All trains will be redirected to Victoria, Blackfriars or New Cross and tickets will be accepted on Transport for London services.
Kent’s Members of Parliament met Southeastern’s Managing Director, David Statham, and his team earlier this week to hear more about the plans, which are part of the Thameslink improvement programme at London Bridge.
Michael said: “Whilst I understand this major disruption to services is necessary for the ongoing redevelopment of London Bridge station, I will be monitoring the work to ensure that the reopening of the stations is not delayed. Passengers must not experience any more disruption than is absolutely necessary.”