Michael has hailed the ‘outstanding’ work of the local police force following a recent meeting with the new district commander for Sevenoaks, Chief Inspector Tony Dyer.
Kent Police have previously been awarded ‘Good’ in Effectiveness and Efficiency and ‘Outstanding’ in Legitimacy by HMIC inspectors.
In the wide-ranging meeting, CI Dyer reported on general crime trends, mental healthcare, speeding and specific operations relating to Michael’s casework. Michael was pleased to learn that the force will introduce new innovative measures for tackling speeding in the future.
Michael was also keen to learn more about recruitment following reports that the number of officers and PCSOs in Kent Police has risen earlier in the year. CI Dyer reassured him that recruitment targets will be met.
Michael said: ‘Following a comprehensive meeting with CI Dyer, I am positive about the direction of the force, which has been recognised for its outstanding work, and its ability to maintain law and order in the constituency.’
Michael has warned consumers to defend themselves online at an information session on safe and secure banking in Swanley on Saturday.
The session was hosted by Barclays and was organised by Michael following the announced closure of the Farningham branch. Designed to help customers to explore the alternatives to branch banking, experts were on-hand at the event to explain what services are available through the Post office and through online, mobile and telephone banking.
It was a good opportunity for the local MP to discuss the work that Barclays has done to support Farningham customers with Will Dixon, the Community Banking Director for Barclays in Kent, and Judith Gafatchi, the Swanley branch manager.
Crucially, the event also covered digital safety where local residents learned to protect themselves from financial fraud and scams.
Michael said: ‘Banks have a duty to ensure all residents affected by sudden branch closures are still able to access banking simply, safely and securely. Learning to defend yourself online is vital in this digital age. I will continue to work with banks to ensure everyone can access the services they need.’
It’s the summer of consultations. The Department for Transport, Network Rail, Thameslink and Southeastern have all launched their plans for 2018. I’ve responded to all four. I hope to respond to many more in the future, because getting our railways right is important; especially now, before our young people start new jobs in the City, before school starts up again, and before families return to work.
In March, I made the case for passengers in Sevenoaks and Swanley to the Government consultation on the new South Eastern franchise. It was a great opportunity to argue for more space on trains, improved compensation arrangements, an Oyster-style network, and an end to the unacceptably poor service many of us have endured for far too long. This was accompanied by a lengthy letter I handed personally to the Transport Secretary, demonstrating to him my determination to ensure that passengers are finally put first.
I also helped draft a joint letter to the Rail Minister, which was signed by twelve other Kent MPs, calling for a major rethink of our rail strategy in the South East. The more pressure we put on those in charge, the more likely we are to get results.
The Kent Route Study is not up to scratch. Network Rail must consider further solutions beyond those mentioned in the draft in order to meet the projected population proliferation. It’s crucial that our railways have the capacity to meet the increasing demand. I responded to the consultation in June and have requested a meeting with Network Rail to discuss the proposals in more detail.
Whilst Southeastern’s 2018 timetable proposals are underwhelming, Thameslink’s new 2018 timetable proposals are more promising. With plans to double the number of trains every hour from Swanley and introduce faster routes from Sevenoaks, it seems Thameslink are finally listening.
That’s why these consultations are important and that’s why I’ve taken considerable time to research and respond to them. Now we need to ensure that the very best of the plans are delivered.
Michael has responded positively to the second phase of the Thameslink timetable consultation.
The proposed timetable, effective December 2018, will double the number of Thameslink trains from two per hour to four per hour in the constituency. This will affect mainline routes from Swanley and Otford and metro routes from Swanley, Eynsford, Shoreham, Otford, Bat & Ball and Sevenoaks to London.
During off-peak periods, however, existing Thameslink services will operate between Sevenoaks and London Blackfriars only. Whilst reducing the number of London destinations may make trains more reliable, Michael wrote, the only way to ensure that passengers are not then inconvenienced is to install Oyster-style ticketing for whole journeys at all stations in Sevenoaks.
Journeys from Swanley to London Bridge, London Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon, St Pancras International and beyond to Cambridge will be faster. A direct train service between Sevenoaks and Welwyn Garden City will also form part of the expansion of the Thameslink network.
Michael said: ‘Plans to double the number of trains per hour show that the train operators are listening. That’s why engaging in consultations is important. Now we need to make sure that these plans are delivered.’
Michael recently officially opened Andrews Court, a new development of affordable rented apartments for the over 55s in Swanley. New residents joined Moat representatives, local councillors and officers from Sevenoaks District Council for the celebrations.
Delivered by Moat in partnership with Sevenoaks District Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and developer Jenner, AndrewsCourt is a redevelopment of the old St Andrews Court. The scheme includes larger dwellings, which allow easier access for people who may have wheelchairs or walking frames, incorporating aspects of Dementia-friendly design – such as different coloured doors and carpets on each floor.
Michael said: ‘What’s important here is partnership; with Sevenoaks District Council and the Government. These things don’t just happen. They happen when there is genuine partnership involved. This redevelopment is vital for the community because it is affordable and designed to ensure residents have the dignity of independence.
The residents here want to be looked after later in life, but they also want to be able to look after themselves. For all these reasons, I’m delighted to be here to open Andrews Court. I look forward to more of these developments coming forward here in Sevenoaks.’
Michael helped to launch Swanley in Bloom on Saturday on a visit to the town centre.
He was accompanied by Cllr Victor Southern as he met local representatives and the team from Coolings Garden Centre, which sponsors the event.
Michael said: “I was delighted to help to launch Swanley in Bloom. This event has a very important role to play in making local people proud of their community and getting people interested in gardening. I look forward to hearing more about its progress in the coming months.”
In a sometimes unsettled year nationally, Sevenoaks, Swanley, Westerham and our villages have continued to go from strength to strength. Unemployment remains at record low levels. Our new grammar annexe is being constructed and will open next year. Our local economy is vibrant and prosperous.
Building on this progress will require more work in the New Year. Bringing fast broadband to all parts of the constituency is still a top priority. We must also continue to work hard to protect our much-loved Green Belt from inappropriate development. Most importantly, though, the spring will see consultation on the new rail franchise and I will use this opportunity to push for the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks.
At the end of a successful year for Sevenoaks and Swanley, I would like to wish all of my constituents a very happy Christmas and New Year. I am always proud to represent this constituency and I look forward to being as active as ever throughout the area in 2017.
On Friday, Michael visited the Teardrop Centre in Swanley.
The site, which was formerly derelict, has recently been brought back into use by Trimline Distribution Group. Michael was shown around by Partner Bruce Hazell and heard about the progress that has been made to restore the centre.
He spoke to an assembled group of employees about the Government’s support for the economy and answered questions about his work as Secretary of State for Defence.
Michael has called on the Government to announce its decision on a new Lower Thames Crossing.
In a letter to the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, Michael has pressed for urgent progress following the consultation conducted by Highways England earlier this year. With no announcement on the proposal in last week’s Autumn Statement and increasing pressure on the Dartford Crossing, Michael believes a decision is urgently required so that building can commence on the project as soon as possible.
Michael supports the easternmost route, option C, which was recommended by Highways England in its consultation. This route would be the best option for his constituents, relieving congestion in the Dartford area and providing economic benefits across the region. In his letter, Michael also emphasised the importance of properly connecting any new crossing into the wider road network.
Michael said: “The ongoing problems at Dartford are affecting the daily lives of my constituents so a new crossing is urgently needed. I am calling on the Government to turn its welcome support for the principle of a new crossing into concrete, comprehensive action so that we can resolve this issue as soon as possible.”
Michael was welcomed on Friday to Rural Age Concern Darent Valley’s Cottage Day Centre in Fawkham.
Greeted by Chief Officer Liam Curran and Trustees including Cllr Madeleine Rogers and Cllr Faye Parkin, Michael met clients and heard about the charity’s exciting expansion plans.
The day came after his visit to Age Concern’s refurbished shop in the centre of Swanley in April.
Michael said: “I was delighted to meet clients and staff at the day centre. It offers a vital service for older people living in rural areas in the north of my constituency. We need facilities like this to be bigger and even better and I look forward to supporting Age Concern’s efforts to expand.”