What is going on in Westminster? – A September Newsletter from our local MP.

Hollingbourne Parish Council has received the following Newsletter from the Faversham and Mid Kent MP, Mrs Helen Whately, who represents Hollingbourne. Items that do not relate to the Hollingbourne area have been removed. Please Read More for further information.

 

People often ask me what is going on in Westminster. It has been a strange – and sometimes difficult – few months. 

 I appreciate that Brexit continues to divide opinion. I’ve heard a full range of views from constituents – from those who want to see us leave without a deal to those who want to cancel Brexit.
 
I still believe the best outcome is to leave the EU with a deal – and the Prime Minister wants to see this as well. But we must hold our nerve in these negotiations and be prepared for any outcome.

As a Kent MP, I do not take the risks of no deal lightly. That’s why I continue to meet regularly with Ministers from the Treasury and Department for Transport o make sure plans are in place to keep Kent moving under any Brexit outcome. And I was pleased to see the Government provide extra funding for Brexit preparations in Kent.

The Prime Minister has also announced extra funding for schools and hospitals – and I will continue to work hard to make sure Kent gets its share of this money.

In other campaign news – I was delighted to welcome to Parliament a group of campaigners fighting to save Graveney Marshes from the Cleve Hill solar plant. There has also been some good news for rail users with a new 15-minute delay compensation scheme and half price train fares for 16-17 year olds.

Earlier this month I was made Minister for Arts, Tourism and Heritage. This is my first job in Government and while I’m excited to be taking on new responsibilities, my top priority will continue to be working hard for Faversham and Mid Kent.

A New Role in Government 

It’s a huge honour to have been appointed Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism. I have lost count of the number of people who’ve told me I have the best job in Government.

As well as supporting national cultural treasures – the museums and galleries everyone has heard of – I’m also looking forward to supporting cultural activities outside our big cities, like the local choirs, galleries and drama groups in Faversham and around Maidstone.

I know from my constituency – which includes the stunning Leeds Castle and historic market town of Faversham – how important tourism is to the economy. I’m looking forward to supporting the many fantastic tourist attractions and destinations across our country.

More money for Kent Schools

Schools in Kent will get a share of an extra £14 billion the Prime Minister has committed to education funding between now and 2022/23.

As part of this, Minimum Funding Levels will increase to £5,000 per pupil next year, with every primary school getting a minimum of £4,000 from 2021/22. This will benefit Kent schools which have traditionally been lower funded.

I was pleased to hear the Schools Minster, Nick Gibb, confirm that every school in Faversham and Mid Kent will get an increase in funding as a result of this announcement.

The funding package also includes £700 million for children with special educational needs, so every pupil can access the education that is right for them. Kent schools could be in line for around £20 million from this fund.

This is in addition to the announcement that salaries for new teachers are set to rise to £30,000 by 2022-23. This is vital for recruiting and keeping talented teachers. 

Brexit preparations get funding boost.

Operation Brock is getting a £20 million funding boost as part of the Government’s preparations to leave the EU on 31 October.

This will ensure Operation Brock – designed to keep the M20 open in the event of disruption to services across the English Channel – can be implemented effectively, if needed.

This is in addition to new enforcement powers, including £300 fines for lorries drivers who clog up Kent’s roads by avoiding Operation Brock approved routes.

Much of this funding is for contingency planning. Ideally, we won’t get delays at the ports and we won’t need Operation Brock, but if it is going to be deployed, it needs to work properly. This includes making sure border checks are ready and the police and local authorities have all the powers they need.

I’ve recently met Ministers from the Treasury and Department for Transport to raise the particular challenges Kent faces as the gateway to Europe. I’m determined to make sure people in Kent do not bear the brunt of any disruption caused by leaving the EU without a deal.

 

Securing more money for hospitals in Kent.

Our local hospitals need investment so they can maintain high standards and prepare for the future, so I’m glad to see Boris Johnson has made the NHS one of his priorities as Prime Minister. 
 
I’m determined to get Kent its share of the extra £1.8 billion NHS capital funding which has been announced for hospital upgrades in England. I’ve met other local MPs and the Chief Executive of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust about a request to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, for £350 million for hospitals in our area.

This money builds on the Government’s long term plan for the NHS – announced earlier this year – which will see an extra £20.5 billion a year being spent on healthcare by 2023-24.
 
People in East Kent have waited too long for better healthcare. With the medical school on the way, now is the time to sort out our hospitals.

Results are in from the Park Wood GP survey.

I received hundreds of responses to my survey on GP services, which shows just how much people care about local healthcare.

The survey has given me a good sense of what’s going well and where people are having problems. For instance, some people can get an appointment the same day, but others told me they have to wait over two weeks. I was shocked that one in five people said they have gone to A&E in the past year because they couldn’t get a GP appointment. 

I’ve shared my results with local GPs, asking them to work together to make sure everyone has a good experience at their surgery. I’ve also written to the local NHS body which funds GP surgeries asking them what they can do to help. Finally, I’ve written to the Health Secretary so that the Government knows that Park Wood needs improvements in GP services.

An online survey about GP services – for everyone in Faversham and Mid Kent – is still open, so please visit my website and take a few minutes to tell me what you think. The survey can be found here.

Mrs Whately can be contacted at helen.whately.mp@parliament.uk

Pictured below is Mrs Whately.

Mrs Helen Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent including Hollingbourne – April 2019.