Last Saturday residents in Swaythling may have seen me on Stoneham Way cleaning for the Queen for the second weekend in a row. I joined local Councillors and volunteers for the annual Swaythling clean up. This year we collected 8 large sacks of litter and had the chance to chat to local residents who were extremely appreciative of our efforts. Following this I joined hundreds of Romsey residents for the annual Reminiscences of Romsey event, organised by the Romsey Test Rotary Club. It was fascinating to see photographs of so many momentous events in the Market Place, between 1940 and 1980, including some that I remember. Mountbatten School junior choir performed some wonderful numbers for us all and I very much enjoyed the demonstration by Canine Partners.
This week is National Apprenticeship Week and as part of the celebrations I again hosted the YMCA Training Apprenticeship Awards. I am a huge proponent of apprenticeships having seen first-hand the amazing progress young people can make when given an opportunity. The ceremony focused on the many success stories of YMCA-backed apprentices and best practice examples for other businesses who are considering taking on an apprentice.
Of course this week is budget week and although I was disappointed not to get in with a question I had on the order paper for DfID questions, I had good news a short while later. The Chancellor has given the green light for funding for a new dedicated emergency and trauma department for children at Southampton General Hospital. This is a wonderful step forward for local people, many of whom will have children and be all too familiar with trips to A&E.
March 11th 2016
I was pleased to be able to join the Romsey Lions to clean for the Queen on Saturday as part of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday celebrations. I know many constituents joined events across Romsey and Southampton North and I look forward to taking part in further street cleaning efforts this coming weekend.
During BBC School report week I always try to help as many children as possible with their journalistic endeavours and this week was no different. I met a number of budding young journalists and discussed a wide range of subjects. Projects like this are an excellent way for young people to learn communication skills which are essential to working life and I was encouraged to see so many eloquent pupils asking genuinely interesting questions.
It was also International Women’s Day on Tuesday and as part of my role as Chair of the Speakers Advisory Committee on Works of Art I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr Susan Cohen on Eleanor Rathbone – who served as an independent MP from 1929-1946. She was a very determined and forceful individual who will be remembered for securing family allowance.
On Wednesday I led a debate in Westminster Hall on BT service standards. We all experience the occasional frustration of being ‘cut-off’ from the world with no communications, however I hear from constituents on a regular basis regarding problems they face in securing a working telephone line. Many of these problems are in the rural areas where using a mobile phone as an alternative is an impossibility. Almost without exception the company they are complaining about is BT.
This weekend is the fabulous Reminiscences of Romsey event, hosted by the Romsey Test Rotary Club at the Crosfield Hall. I fear I may be fresh from some more litter picking in Swaythling, but I will be there to join many local residents for an afternoon of entertainment.
March 4th 2016
I am sure many readers will have seen coverage regarding the proposed ‘Solent Combined Authority’ which would potentially merge Portsmouth and Southampton City Councils and would include a number of district councils in between, including Eastleigh, Fareham and the Isle of Wight. This might create an authority with an elected mayor and around forty elected councillors, almost totally urban in nature, right on our doorstep and potentially with extensive powers.
There has been a great deal of weight put behind this project by the Leaders of Portsmouth and Southampton, but it is only right that Hampshire MPs should carefully consider the impact this might have on our constituents. The “duty to co-operate” with neighbouring authorities will undoubtedly affect Test Valley, Winchester and the New Forest, not to mention the fiscal impact this could have on the rest of Hampshire.
Many of my constituents raise concerns about strategic planning on a regular basis, and it is something over which I certainly have no direct control. But a directly elected Mayor, for an urban area, which is already seeking to push development into Test Valley, might not be able to resist the temptation to look at our green gaps and deem them suitable for Portsmouth or Southampton overspill. The proposed ‘Solent Combined Authority’ could decide to extend their influence on planning matters along the borders of neighbouring districts, for example they could decide that, while there is no space in Portswood for a new housing estate, there is some space in North Baddesley, or Valley Park and propose to build there – almost certainly against the wishes of residents and local councillors.
I simply cannot support any scheme which has the potential to negatively affect the people of Romsey and Southampton North and I am therefore asking the Government to look in more detail at the current proposals to ensure that any future Combined Authority in the area will be created in a way which will not pose a risk to neighbouring councils.