Clophill Heritage Trust
Posted Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 15:42
Last Friday I visited Saint Mary’s Old Church in Greensand Ridge after an invitation from the Clophill Heritage Trust. They asked me to visit the Church, support the project and to publicise the need for funding through donations. The Trust has lost critical funding and is pursuing different avenues from the community to raise funds to complete the Project.
The Trust is restoring the Old Church so that the village’s residents can enjoy a previously neglected area. They are also building a Heritage Centre on the site and an observation tower offering the public incredible views of Greensand Ridge and beyond. New eco Lodges will provide accommodation for walkers and other visitors to the area.
The trust is also working closely with schools across Bedfordshire so that children can get a better knowledge of our exciting local history and its context in the broader themes explored in their classrooms.
After touring the grounds and seeing the wonderful history and views the site offers I met the some of the trust members and directors. I expressed my appreciation of their work to improve the community and provide new purpose for an area that had fallen into disrepair.
Readers who wish to donate to this great cause can do so by following the link on this page:
Campaign Day in Milton Keynes
Posted Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 12:20
Amanda Devlin of the Milton Keynes Citizen has done this great write-up and video of our campaign day for Iain Stewart MP on Saturday. As she writes...
"It’s not often you hear someone shout “oh my god there is a celebrity on my doorstep!”
But that’s exactly what happened when ex-I’m a Celebrity star Nadine Dorries MP came to support MK South MP Iain Stewart for a campaign day on Saturday.
The pair were joined by almost 50 volunteers who knocked on more than 750 doors and delivered 2,000 leaflets as the countdown to the general election intensifies.
Ms Dorries, who campaigned in the heart of Woburn Sands with Mr Stewart, said: “The reaction was really positive from people on the doorstep.
“Iain has created a really good impression because he has worked so hard.
“You wonder sometimes if people know that, but they really do, and I think that is a result of Iain’s own assiduousness in reporting back to people, his profile in the media and the work that he does - you can’t fault him.
“He’s one of the nicest guys you could possibly meet.”
To mark the 100-day countdown to the election, I spent the day filming with the Milton Keynes Conservatives last week.
Come rain or shine, Mr Stewart’s dedicated volunteers have spent the last year door-knocking to gather people’s views and tell them the Conservative’s priorities “to secure a brighter future”.
They are backing Mr Stewart to come out on top in May’s election by maintaining his 5,000 majority.
Mr Stewart said: “I was very grateful to have my friend and colleague Nadine come over the border to help.
“Politics is a team game; I couldn’t do this job myself.
“There are some 90,000 electors in my constituency - it’s not physically possible for me to knock on every single door, so I do need people to come out and help me.
“I’m very grateful to the young, the old and everyone in between who give up their spare time to come out and help.
“We have lots of fun and swap stories.”
Posted Monday, 26 January 2015 at 12:27
Further to my meeting with Govia Thameslink, we have today heard that the company will revert to the previous method for delay repay compensation.
This was an issue raised with me by many constituents who felt that reduced compensation in light of a deteriorating service was simply unacceptable.
I put this matter directly to the company with a strong suggestion that they should listen to their customers and change it back. This they have now done.
I’m still monitoring service on the Thameslink line, particularly in light of the serious disruption this weekend due to flooding in a tunnel at Farringdon.
Unemployment falling in Mid-Bedfordshire
Posted Wednesday, 21 January 2015 at 12:06
I've just had my monthly email from the Commons library about the jobless figures for Mid-Bedfordshire and the news is very encouraging.
The number of Jobseeker's Allowance claimants in Mid Bedfordshire in December 2014 was 443. This is just 0.8% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64.
The number of claimants is 302 lower than in December 2013 and 31 lower than in November 2014.
As always, there is more to be done for people who either have no job or who are underemployed with fewer hours than they want or need. But the overall trend is positive and I hope it continues across the next months and on into 2016.
In Praise of the Blackpool Victoria Hospital
Posted Thursday, 15 January 2015 at 13:25
I am often asked to speak or take part in charity events outside of my constituency but this event I would like to flag up in particular as it is very close and personal to me.
On her birthday last September, my friend, Mary Taylor, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Mary is standing next to me in the picture in the very fetching dark wig. Mary is a truly selfless person who is always, and I mean always, doing something kind for someone other than herself.
It was no surprise to me when Mary called and told me she had organised a fund raising event for Blackpool Victoria Hospital and the Princess trust and would I open it?
Of course, I said yes and, like everyone else she had spoken to, I imagine, I put the phone down stunned at the fact that whilst coming to terms with a profoundly distressing situation and undergoing chemotherapy, Mary had organised such an event in less than three months.
Little did I know that, within weeks, I would also experience the amazing care provided by the medical and nursing staff at Blackpool Vic, as my own mother was admitted as an emergency admission just before Christmas.
Blackpool Vic is staffed by local people caring for local people and it shows. It’s the kind of hospital were people are born, have their own babies, visit, say goodbyes to loved ones, work and often depart this life from. The standards and levels of efficiency and the caring attitude of the staff who speak to patients as though they really like and care about them, are all exceptional.
This article was in the Blackpool Gazette and thank you to all the lovely ladies (and Tommy) who helped Mary raise almost £700 on the day.
In praise of Enid Blyton, Hilary Mantel and audio books
Posted Tuesday, 13 January 2015 at 15:56
Read my interview with the Irish Times here
Meeting with Govia Thameslink and Network Rail
Posted Tuesday, 6 January 2015 at 16:10
This afternoon I held a meeting in my Westminster office with representatives of Network Rail and Govia Thameslink. I called them in to express my deep concern about service standards on the line following the franchise handover in September and to reflect the many pieces of correspondence from constituents who have suffered because of delays and cancellations.
Govia accept that performance in the first three months of the franchise was poor and continued to offer their apologies to all those passengers who have been affected. We then bore down into why the situation had arisen and what was being done to improve things now.
A large number of cancellations, as noted by constituents, have been blamed on a lack of drivers. Part of this problem was inherited from First Capital Connect. Some extra drivers were immediately put in extra training but this has not been anywhere near enough to prevent chaos on the network. I expressed my anger that this has been allowed to happen and that my constituents jobs and livelihoods are potentially being put at risk because of consistent delays.
When delays do occur passengers frequently complain that they are not kept informed, either by platform staff, drivers or information boards on the trains. I emphasised that this must change. Delays can be caused by problems out of the control of the operating company but the subsequent communication with their passengers is a vital duty for Govia.
They agreed that this was the case and admit that their system is inferior to that used by FCC. In addition to investment in apps and twitter feeds, I made the point that staff on platforms and trains must have access to the most up to date information that they can share with passengers in announcements and when approached directly.
The UK’s failure, over successive governments and generations, to invest properly in our railway networks is causing failures of our ageing infrastructure. This is being addressed and the lines from London to Bedfordshire are performing well. Unfortunately our trains are affected by knock-on problems occurring on the stretch of line south of London to Brighton. Large parts of the ticket prices we all pay are being spent on updating the networks, including major upgrade projects such as at London Bridge but also all along the lines on smaller but equally necessary works.
Finally, several constituents have raised with me the new system by which compensation is allocated to season tickets holders subjected to delays. Apparently, across the rail industry the operating companies were told by user groups that passengers preferred personalisation and compensation that more accurately reflected delays they had actually experienced, rather than averages based on broader performance figures. This requires personal data entry of the relevant information, for now.
Govia are moving to a new smart-ticketing system similar to London’s Oyster system. This will once again see compensation for delays and cancellations automatically assigned to passengers regardless of their ticket class. That system will come online this year but for the time being passengers will have to claim for each individual delay as it occurs.
Govia have told me things are now going to get better. I have asked for month by month performance figures outlining delays, cancellations and timing of arrivals to assess and chart whether or not they deliver on this commitments. We will meet again in three months to discuss it further and hopefully at that meeting there will be tangible demonstration of improvement that will be felt by all commuters.
In the meantime, any constituent who has suffered delays or any problem with Govia’s service then please do continue to let me know and I will raise the problems with them for you.
Finally, I believe that a twelve month period to train a driver is a tad excessive and the move towards driverless trains in 2017/18 in order to meet the target of 24 trains per hour through the London core is a welcome advancement.
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