Column: Building On Our Achievements In 2017

In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the need to build on Sevenoaks’ progress this year:

2016 was a very successful year for Sevenoaks.  In an unsettled year nationally, our local economy remained strong, with unemployment falling to another record low.

Though there will be challenges, I believe 2017 could be even better.

After so many years of campaigning, in September our new grammar school annexe will finally open.  I visited the site just before Christmas and I could already see that it will be a great addition to the remarkable range of high-quality school choice that is now on offer in Sevenoaks.  There is still more to do to secure grammar provision for boys, though, and that will be one of my top priorities this year.

Meanwhile, discussions on the new rail franchise will be a great opportunity to lobby for the extension of the Oyster network and the many other rail improvements we want to see.  I look forward to continuing to make the case for passengers this year.

With an ageing population increasing pressure on the NHS and our care system, we need to continue to protect Sevenoaks Hospital.  It is a much-loved feature of our town – but it also has an important role to play in relieving pressure on facilities at Pembury and Darent Valley.  Carrying on making that argument will be vital this year.

Finally, we need to make sure the District Council develops a robust and reasonable Local Plan that will give us the homes we need without encouraging inappropriate development in our town and in our villages in the years to come.

With all of these priorities and more, I am looking forward to continuing to represent Sevenoaks this year.  After a successful 2016, let’s build on our achievements in 2017

Column: Let’s Seize This Opportunity for Rail Improvements

In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the need for improvements to rail services:

As the nights draw in, rail disruption on long, cold journeys home seems ever more frustrating.  Problems like the ones we experienced in Sevenoaks last week seem to happen all too often.

I regularly receive complaints about Southeastern’s performance and I recently joined other Kent MPs to press the Rail Minister for improvements.  I will be paying particularly close attention during the winter months.

Next year will see the start of a wider process to decide on the details of the new regional rail franchise from 2018.  For anyone who wants to see better services in Sevenoaks, this is an important opportunity to have your say.  There will be a consultation in the spring on what we want to see and I encourage everyone to participate.

My top priority will be the extension of the Oyster network to stations like Sevenoaks.  I promised to fight for this vital improvement at the election last year and I will be lobbying hard.  There are wider issues too, though, such as making sure there are enough trains and seats to cope with growing passenger numbers.

Securing all of these changes will only be possible if we push for them together.  I know some people think that things will never change.  I know they are tired of the old excuses for poor service and disruption.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for new solutions.  We have to seize this opportunity to secure the meaningful improvements we need.

In the meantime, I would like to wish all of my constituents a very happy Christmas and New Year.  In a politically eventful year, Sevenoaks and Swanley have continued to thrive and I am looking forward to continuing to serve as your MP in 2017.

Michael Secures New Assurances on Oyster Expansion

Michael has secured fresh assurances about the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks.

In two recent letters, the Rail Minister and the Deputy Mayor of London have both confirmed their commitment to the principle of expansion when the new rail franchise begins in 2018.

In a letter, Rail Minister Paul Maynard wrote ‘We are still considering a further roll out of Oyster to stations such as Sevenoaks.’  The letter also acknowledged that incorporating Sevenoaks into the Oyster zone system could ‘provide both savings and increased convenience for your constituents’.

In a separate letter, Deputy Mayor of London Val Shawcross assured Michael that under Transport for London’s (TfL) proposals for taking over London metro rail services, his constituents would be able ‘to use Oyster and contactless bank payment cards for journeys from Sevenoaks to anywhere in the London zonal network’.

Michael said: “This is important progress.  Whether under TfL’s proposals or the existing system, Sevenoaks’ passengers deserve the benefits that Oyster and contactless can bring.  I will continue to push for further commitments to ensure that this vital improvement is delivered as soon as possible.”

Work Is Still Needed On Oyster

southeasternMichael 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.”

Annual Report 2015-16

Standing up for Sevenoaks and Swanley

oaks chamber of commerceLast 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

Meeting pupils at Churchill Primary School in Westerham.
Meeting pupils at Churchill Primary School in Westerham.

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

Inspecting the work in progress at London Bridge Station
Inspecting the work at London Bridge Station.

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

Michael with representatives from the hospital and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Michael with representatives from the hospital and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust.

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

Michael Fallon Darent Wax tour
Michael visiting the Darent Wax Company.

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.

 

Renewed Oyster Progress

London Bridge Station
London Bridge Station

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.