Hollingbourne Parish Council has received the following newsletter from Mrs Helen Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent which includes Hollingbourne. She writes about Brexit and the likely need to have Operation Stack on a regular basis if Brexit happens with no deal with the EU and the UK trades with the EU on World Trading Organisation (WTO) terms. No other nation trades exclusively on WTO terms and Operation Stack would start from Junction 8 of the M20 in Hollingbourne. Two of the schools will be close to a mental health unit. Please Read More for further information.
It has been a sweltering summer in Westminster – and temperatures ran high over Brexit in the final weeks before the summer recess. All the while, I’ve been trying to keep a cool head to figure out what’s best for Kent. We need to deliver on the outcome of the referendum, but better to reach a sensible deal than crash out with no deal.
The Prime Minister has set out a plan for a pragmatic Brexit which honours the referendum result while supporting jobs dependent on trade with the EU. The deal set out in the recent White Paper will end free movement, take us out of the single market, take us out of the customs union, and end the jurisdiction of the ECJ in the UK. It’s a huge repatriation of power back to the UK.
Although it didn’t please everyone, businesses seem to have cautiously welcomed the white paper, with the CBI saying it “shows that the Prime Minister has put pragmatism before politics”. And while I know some are sceptical about listening to businesses, there are many thousands of jobs dependent on getting this right.
Critical for us in Kent, we mustn’t have customs delays at Dover, which would paralyse the roads and potentially turn the M20 into a giant lorry park. That’s why I was glad to see proposals in the White Paper which would allow goods to be shipped between the UK and the EU without customs checks. The big question now is whether the EU will accept it.
In parallel with the negotiations, the Government is stepping up the preparations for no deal – including the preparations to carry out customs checks at our borders which could be legally required by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Given the likelihood of queues at the ports, I have been pushing Highways England on their plans to keep the M20 flowing. They have come up with a temporary plan which should keep traffic flowing in both directions while up to 2,000 lorries are queued, at which point unfortunately they will have to impose the full Operation Stack.
After such a close and passionately fought referendum, Brexit understandably generates a lot of political heat, but on there have been great developments on the domestic front, including more money for the NHS and progress on Maidstone’s three new schools.
Everybody has an NHS story, whether a child born, a disease cured or a life saved. It’s been there for us for the past 70 years, and we all want it to be there for us in the future.
To keep pace with growing demand, the NHS needs money. The Prime Minister has announced that the NHS budget will increase by £20.5 billion in real terms by 2024. That’s a 3.4% rise every year for the next 5 years.
Along with excellent healthcare, there are few things people care more about than children’s education. We desperately need new schools, otherwise children around Maidstone could be left with no school place. We’ve got funding for two new schools, but concerns emerged about the proposed location of the schools next to a mental health unit.
With so many rumours flying round I decided to bring the agencies involved together for a meeting. Representatives from Kent County Council, Maidstone Borough Council, the Department for Education (DfE), the Leigh Academies Trust* and Cygnet Health Care** – who will run the mental health unit – attended.
Cygnet advised that only patients needing ‘low secure’ or non-secure accommodation will be treated at the unit, excluding those who might be a risk to the community.
During the meeting, Kent County Council, the DfE and the Trust said that they had been reassured by Cygnet’s advice and its assurances that the schools and the mental health unit could operate near to each other. I’ll keep pushing for these schools to be opened as soon as possible.
With summer stretching before me as I write, school seems like a long way off for my own children, and after a fiery few weeks in Westminster I’m looking forward to getting back to Kent.
- * For more information about the Leigh Academies Trust please go to http://www.leighacademiestrust.org.uk/ The trust trust’s sponsors include Sir Geoffrey Leigh, the Universities of Kent and Greenwich, the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, and Ravensbourne.
- ** For more information about Cygnet Health Care please go to https://www.cygnethealth.co.uk/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cygnet_Health_Care