Inspiring Future Engineers

Yesterday, Sir Michael pledged his support for the 10 point action plan to help inspire future generations of engineers led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, in collaboration with EngineeringUK.

 

The plan, part of the This is Engineering campaign, is informed by students (aged between 13-16 years old), and has been developed in response to the significant skills shortage in engineering – the latest figures from EngineeringUK indicate an annual demand for 124,000 engineers and a shortfall of 59,000.

 

The action plan calls for more businesses to pledge to run “taster days”– a shorter version of work experience – to help students understand the varied role of engineering, and for the Government to tie “taster days” into the upcoming careers strategy.

 

Following new research conducted by YouGov that shows that kids aged 13-18 are most likely to turn to Google (52%) for career inspiration, ahead of their parents (41%) and teachers (37%) the plan calls for more careers information to be hosted online and a focused effort by Government and industry to provide better information on further education and the opportunities for technician roles.

 

The report also urges politicians, education providers and the wider business community to support and promote local careers fairs and for politicians and businesses to proactively champion GCSE Design and Technology courses in their local areas. According to 2017 figures, D&T has disappeared from nearly half of schools.

 

This Is Engineering is a new, multi-year campaign to give more young people from all backgrounds the opportunity to explore careers in engineering, and to raise awareness of the breadth of opportunities available in the profession. Launched in the government’s Year of Engineering, the campaign is being backed by a consortium of major engineering companies.

 

The Sevenoaks MP said: “Engineering is vital to every aspect of life and will only become more so as technologies continue to develop. I would encourage all schools in Sevenoaks to work in partnership with local businesses to promote career fairs and follow the guidelines in the This is the Future of Engineering plan on how to run a successful event.”

Michael supports Royal Academy of Engineering

Teaching Apprenticeships in Sevenoaks

For head teachers in my constituency in need of talented graduates to fill (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) STEM subject teaching roles, I would suggest you take a look at the Teaching Apprenticeship Programme (TAP). Schools can hire Teaching Apprentices and in doing so access significant Apprenticeship Levy and grant funding. The TAP handle the whole process, from sourcing, screening and recruiting graduates for shortage subjects, supporting schools to access funding and delivering a 1 year programme which guides apprentices towards Qualified Teacher Status. Graduates value Teaching Apprenticeships because they are simple to understand and provide a fee-free, salaried route into the profession.

For more information please contact TAP Managing Director Neil Gamewell on Neil.Gamewell@teachingapprenticeships.com or visit www.teachingapprenticeships.com

Housing Target

In light of the housing target set by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in Sevenoaks, Sir Michael wrote to the Housing Minister, James Brokenshire, urging him to reduce the unsustainable and unrealistic target: Sevenoaks is 93% Green Belt and 6% Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, making it one of the hardest hit by the new target.

 

Sir Michael said: “The Government’s housing target for Sevenoaks is just unrealistic and I have urged the Housing Ministry to reconsider. I have always pledged to protect the Green Belt and I will continue to do so. My hope is for a balance between the need to provide some new and affordable housing for the next generation on one hand, and protecting our villages from intrusive development on the other.”

Letter to Housing Minister, James Brokenshire
Letter to Housing Minister, James Brokenshire

Defibrillator Champion

Sir Michael this week became a Defibrillator Champion at an event held by The Oliver King Foundation, a charity set up following the sudden death of 12-year-old Oliver from a cardiac arrest. The Foundation campaigns to have defibrillators on site in every school in the UK.

He said: “Early access to a defibrillator is vital. I am proud to become a Defibrillator Champion for Sevenoaks and I will be working hard to ensure that there are defibrillators present in our public places, particularly in local schools to protect our children and teachers.”

Sir Michael becomes Debifrillator Champion

Lizzy Yarnold MBE Tours Sevenoaks District

Lizzie with her 2 gold medals
Lizzy with her 2 gold medals beside the gold bus

Crowds turned out in force to welcome and congratulate Lizzy with her 2 Olympic gold medals for the sport of Skeleton.  The first medal was awarded in 2014 at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games and the second was gained this year at the 2018 Korea Winter Games in PyeongChang.  She was the only British athlete to gain a gold medal at this event.

Lizzy started her tour of the Sevenoaks area in an open-topped bus which left the District Council offices at 9.30 am and then visited as many schools as possible throughout the morning, meeting students from Knole Acadamy, Weald of Kent, Trinity, Otford, Shoreham, Eynsford, Farningham, Swanley, HortonKirby and finally West Kingsdown.

Lizzie Yarnold with Michael at SDC offices
Lizzy Yarnold with Michael at SDC offices

NHS Re-organisation

Daily Telegraph
Here we go again.  There have been rumours for weeks.   Now there’s a formal invitation to be briefed on the forthcoming “strategic” merger of Kent’s NHS “commissioning groups”.

In 21 years as Sevenoaks MP I’ve known one constant – endless NHS re-organisation.  When I arrived in 1996 there was just one District Health Authority.  This was then split into a new West Kent health authority and several GP fundholding practices.  In 1999 these were merged into the Sevenoaks and Tonbridge Primary Group.   In 2002 this became the West Kent Primary Care Trust.  In 2006 this Trust was merged again, with two neighbouring Primary Care Trusts to form the North West Kent Primary Care Trust.

Then came the Lansley reforms.  His massive Bill, burning up hours of parliamentary time and much coalition political capital, swept away the Primary Care Trusts, on which GPs were already represented, and replaced them with Commissioning Groups (on which more GPs were represented).  Our West Kent Commissioning Group took effect in 2013.

Now its days, too, look numbered.  A statement last month suggests each of Kent’s eight Commissioning Groups will now be brought together to form “a single strategic commissioning function”.  Our commissioners have explained: “it has become clear to us collectively that there is a need for some aspects of the commissioning of NHS care to be more joined-up.”   So new notepaper, new senior posts, yet more change.

That’s only part of the ever-changing NHS mosaic.  Higher up, the South East Thames Regional Health Authority became the South Thames Regional Health Authority in 1994.  In 2002 this was split into smaller “strategic” health authorities, in our case the Kent and Medway Strategic Health Authority.  In 2006 this was enlarged to become the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority.  In October 2011 that merged with two neighbouring strategic health authorities to become the South Coast Strategic Health Authority.  Just 18 months later it was abolished altogether.

Beyond primary care, the same upheaval. Mental health and community services were originally provided to Sevenoaks by the District Health Authority.  In 1997 mental health services were transferred to a new Invicta Community Trust.  In 2002 Invicta merged with the Thames Gateway Community Trust to form the West Kent NHS and Social Care Trust.  Four years later the West Kent and East Kent NHS and Social Care Trusts came together to form the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust.

Meanwhile other community services moved in 2009 from the Invicta and Thames Gateway Trusts to West Kent Community Health, which in 2011 merged with East Kent and Coastal Kent Community Services NHS Trust to form Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust.   Ambulance services were run by Kent Ambulance Service: in 2006 this merged with the Surrey and Sussex Ambulance Services to form the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

In the midst of this bureaucratic turmoil survives Sevenoaks Hospital, founded in 1870.  But its day-to-day operations are becoming increasingly complex.  Since 1997, it’s been owned by Invicta Trust, by the West Kent Primary Care Trust and by NHS Estates.  Now owned by NHS Property, it’s run by Kent Community Health NHS Trust, with clinics run by various NHS organisations – even some from Sussex.

I make that at least 19 different bodies that have been “running” the NHS in Sevenoaks, almost one for every year I’ve been its MP.  All these changes have been accompanied by hopeful PR, promising better patient service.  But each has involved more cost and more management time which could be better spent on patients. So much change erodes public confidence: nobody really knows who is responsible for what.

Ever-changing bureaucracies undermine local institutions and affections.  In twenty-five years we’ve moved from local to district, from strategic to local, and now back up to county again.  Who can be sure of the right level at which to allocate resources and prioritise services when there’s nobody in charge long enough.

The damage isn’t just to patients and the public but to front-line staff.  It is our hard-pressed nurses and doctors who have to re-adjust their reporting procedures, to cope with fresh layers of bogus accountability, to learn the latest jargon of the newly merged.  This isn’t why they joined.   And we don’t need more of it.    After serving as a surgeon in the Second World War my father joined the NHS as it began: in 25 years he dealt only with a single regional hospital board.  Are we really better served now ?

There are now 32,000 senior managers in the NHS, paid over £65,000 a year: 7 per cent up on a year ago.  Remember the empty St Edward’s hospital in Yes, Minister – the best-run hospital in the country, but which had no patients.  If we’re serious about putting patients before paperwork, it’s time we stopped endlessly re-organising the NHS.

Honouring Lizzy Yarnold in House of Commons

Lizzie Yarnold at Pyeongchang 2018
Lizzie Yarnold at Pyeongchang 2018

Michael has tabled a motion to the House of Commons in honour of Lizzy Yarnold’s “magnificent success” at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Yarnold became the first Briton – and the first skeleton athlete – to win successive Winter Games golds when she claimed victory last Saturday on an historic day for Team GB.

Michael’s tribute follows news that Yarnold, originally from West Kingsdown near Sevenoaks, is now the most decorated British Winter Olympian.

The Sevenoaks MP also called on the Government to recognise Yarnold’s achievement with a lasting commitment to youth sport.  Members of Parliament from different parties continue to add their names to the motion in support.

Michael said: “Many congratulations to our double Olympian.  Let’s use this momentum to set up a talent programme, helping our young people access any specialist sports equipment needed to succeed in events like the skeleton.”

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.

Seeking Stronger Ties with Swanley

Michael has recommended that the town of Swanley be formally recognised in the name of his constituency in his response to the Revised Boundary Proposals 2018.  Should his request be granted, the official name of the Sevenoaks constituency would become Sevenoaks & Swanley.

Revised proposals for all the parliamentary seats were published in October by the Boundary Commission for England.  Under the new proposals, the Sevenoaks constituency remains largely the same, but would gain the Wrotham, Ightham and Stansted ward from Tonbridge, increasing the size of the Sevenoaks electorate to 72,561.

The review aims to make constituencies more equal in size.  Parliament has also approved the principle of reducing the size of the House of Commons.  If the majority of MPs support the detailed plans, the proposed changes will take effect at the next election.

Happy with the boundary proposals, the local MP took the opportunity to recognise Swanley as a key part of his constituency.

He said: “My constituency is special because it is diverse.  The town of Swanley is very different from the town of Sevenoaks, and each contributes equally to the character of the constituency.  I refer to my constituency as Sevenoaks & Swanley, and I believe that now is the time that Swanley be recognised in its formal name.”

Fast-Service Delay ‘Not Good Enough’

Michael has pressed the government for answers following news that the new Thameslink fast service from Maidstone East, Otford and Swanley to London due to start from December 2018 has now been postponed until at least December 2019.

The local MP submitted a series of Parliamentary Questions to the Rail Minister about the matter.  The Rail Minister answered the questions last week, writing:

“Learning lessons from previous major changes and to enable the industry to reduce the risk of disruption to passengers from too much change on the network at any one time, the Secretary of State for Transport asked Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to propose options to reduce the risk of disruption to passengers from the introduction of the Thameslink timetable and operational changes. GTR’s proposal increases the number of services through central London more gradually than had been planned, beginning in May 2018 and ending in December 2019.

The changes have been selected as the best option to benefit the most passengers across the wider south east network. The new Thameslink services from Maidstone East will now be delivered in December 2019.”

Michael has also written to the Transport Secretary for an explanation, demanding he provide reasons for not having consulted on proposals before having taken the decision.

Before writing to the Transport Secretary, Michael was informed by GTR that the decision had been taken by the Department for Transport.

Michael said: “This is not good enough.  We need confirmation that operators will still achieve full capacity on this route, as planned, in 2018.  I await the Transport Secretary’s explanation for not having consulted with stakeholders before taking this decision.”