Thursday, 26 May 2011
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Thursday, 7 April 2011
I believe that the British taxpayer should not contribute to an EU bail-out for Portugal and that the Leader of Conservative MEPS, Martin Callanan, with Parliament in recess, speaks for the Party on this when he said that the UK should refuse to accept any liability for Portugal under the EU Mechanism.
Article 122 of the Lisbon Treaty states that other member states may be expected to help when another state experiences “difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control”. The chronic issue for Portugal is that it has only been able to grow at 0.7% per year since joining the Euro and has failed to control it’s spending, so Article 122 cannot apply to this situation.
This is a matter for the Eurozone and I cannot see any basis whereby we could properly use the Mechanism to bail-out Eurozone countries. To use the Treaty this way is simply not lawful. Britain decided not to join the Euro, so we should not be asked to bail-out countries that did join. I don’t see how we can ask the British taxpayer to prop up a supranational European currency they do not want and they did not ask for.
Monday, 4 April 2011
The Government has a clear plan to cut crime through reforming the police and the criminal justice system. They have already abolished all the complex targets that Labour imposed from Whitehall and set the police just one goal: to cut crime.
Communities also have an important role to play in the fight against crime. The www.police.uk website, launched in February, gives local people real information in map form about exactly what crime is happening in their areas and allows them to hold the police to account for their work.
Further reforms include:
• Introducing, from next May, directly-elected Police and Crime Commissioners to restore the link between the police and their communities.
• Driving out bureaucracy that wastes police time so that officers can be crime-fighters not form-writers.
• Reforming and strengthening the powers to tackle anti-social behaviour.
Mark Reckless MP said:
"I fully support this commitment from Government and Baroness Newlove to harness the great energy of communities across Medway in the fight against crime.
"Crime and anti-social behaviour are not someone else's problem but a real issue that we all must work together to address. I want to see streets right across Medway reclaimed by the people who live here".
Sunday, 3 April 2011
Friday, 1 April 2011
Spending on healthcare in our local area this year will total £435 million overall. The increase follows the decision by the Coalition Government to protect NHS investment over the next four years – investment vigorously opposed by Labour.
Across England as a whole, over £89 billion will now be spent on doctors, nurses and frontline services in the NHS – an increase of more than £2.6 billion over the year before.
Welcoming the increases in NHS funding, Mark Reckless said:
"We recognise just how important the NHS is to this country – and to patients here in Medway. That’s why the Coalition Government is protecting the NHS not just today, but for future generations.
"Next year alone, our constituency will benefit from an extra £12 million of investment going straight to doctors, nurses and other frontline services.
"Under Labour, billions of extra spending was swallowed up as the number of managers increased at five times the rate the number of nurses. Their plans would have meant cutting the NHS, denying patients the improved services we are putting in place.
"Their approach – to spend less and keep things as they are – would leave the NHS in crisis."
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Monday, 28 March 2011
Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Key measures in the Budget to boost growth include:
• Tax cuts for businesses and entrepreneurs
• Scrapping burdensome regulations
• Radical reform of the planning system
• New investment in science and innovation; and
• More support for young people with additional apprenticeships and work experience places.
To help families facing the rising cost of living, the Budget also will:
• Immediately cut fuel duty by 1 pence per litre and delay April’s inflation rise in duty to next January. This means fuel duty is 6 pence lower than it would be under Labour.
• Introduce a Fair Fuel Stabiliser to tax oil companies more to stop above inflation rises in fuel duty
• Increase the Personal Allowance from by a further £630 from April 2012. That’s another real increase of £48 extra per year, or £126 in cash terms. Together with this year’s rise, that means a total of £326 extra each year for those working hard to support their families. And it means, just ten months into office, this coalition Government has taken 1.1 million low paid people out of tax altogether.
Welcoming the Budget, Mark Reckless MP said:
“Last year the Chancellor in the Budget brought Britain back from the brink of bankruptcy and I am delighted that the Chancellor didn’t have to come back for more today.
Instead this year’s Budget sets out plans to back enterprise and get Britain making things again. By cutting fuel duty immediately and cutting income tax for millions the Chancellor has done what he can to help families now.
Constituents have written to me about 40p a mile approved mileage allowance not being sufficient to offset the cost of driving and I hope they will be pleased that the chancellor has listened and increased this to 45p per mile.
This Budget has put fuel into the tank of our economy.”
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Mark Reckless MP is delighted that, during education questions yesterday in the House of Commons, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, accepted his invitation to open Strood Academy when construction is completed in 2012.
Mark, who attended the Turning of the Sod ceremony at Strood Academy on Thursday 17th March alongside fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, asked the Education Secretary:
On Thursday, I saw the beginning of construction for Strood academy in my constituency. Does the Secretary of State appreciate the extent to which confirmation of that investment is appreciated in the local community, and would he visit my constituency to open the academy when construction is completed next year?
To which Michael Gove responded:
My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I should be delighted to accept his generous invitation.
Monday, 21 March 2011
It is also important that MPs exercise oversight of how our Armed Forces are kitted out. To do this we need appropriate information from the government, so we can seek to ensure that the right procurement choices are made.
On Friday I asked the Prime Minister about the decision to decommission our current aircraft carrier capability, and whether this should now be reconsidered:
Simon Hoggart wrote up the exchange as follows in his Parliamentary sketch:
Then the laudatory slathering. Labour's Mike Gapes offered congratulations. So did the Tory Richard Ottaway, "as one of the doubting Thomases", now praising a "remarkable diplomatic success".
It was left to Mark Reckless, another Tory, to point out that the Ark Royal filled with Harriers would be the perfect weapon, except that they are being decommissioned. Mr Cameron had little response to that, except to say that other countries weren't using aircraft carriers.
I was surprised to read in yesterday's Sunday Times both that:
France, which had 20 aircraft in the air last night, will send its only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, into acton today.
At RAF high command in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, senior officers concluded that the most flexible rapid response force would be aircraft stationed on a carrier off the Libyan coast. But there was no carrier nor any planes to fly off one since the Ark Royal's Harrier GR9 jump jets had been retired in December. So the planners considered another possibility.
They wondered whether they could bring some of the Harriers back into service and deploy them on a former container ship, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus, making vertical take off and landings.
Friday, 18 March 2011
At the event, held in Parliament on 10th March, Hollie along with the rest of the Young Campaigners Group, who all have autism and have all used CAMHS services, held a special screening of their film ‘Open Your Mind’, which they created about their experiences. They also unveiled their 12 point charter to improve the system for other children with autism, that included the following:
- The environment should… not have ticking clocks – Many people with autism are extremely sensitive to sights, smells, noises or sensations. Ticking clocks, whirling fans and fluorescent light bulbs can be incredibly distracting and distressing for people with autism
- CAMHS professionals should… understand autism and that everyone is different - “You’re not ‘autistic’, you’re on the ‘autistic spectrum’ … think of it like a number line … not a hundred different numbers, like a thousand different numbers”
- CAMHS should work with education – “My secondary school at the moment is everything I might possibly need… I don’t have to leave school to go to all these appointments. I don’t have to get to know loads of difference professionals. I can just go to one place and it’s there whenever I need it.”
Mark Reckless MP says, “It was a privilege to meet these intelligent and talented teenagers from the Young Campaigners Group. They’ve worked extremely hard and overcome many difficulties to be able to produce their charter and film. Many of the points they have put forward are simple to put into practice, and some require little or no cost, and I will campaign locally to help our local CAMHS services to take these ideas on board”.
Hollie Ryan, 15, Young Campaigner, says, “Having had a bad experience with CAMHS, I felt very strongly about improving the service, as I wouldn’t want any other young people to go through what I did. For me, one of the most important things is that the CAMHS professionals should understand that everyone is different, and different things work for different people. On many occasions it has been assumed that I should act in a certain way because I have Asperger syndrome, when really I am totally different to every other young person, because I am me. A little understanding goes a very long way”.
Mark Lever, chief executive, NAS, says, “The work of the Young Campaigners Group is so vital in helping to turn things around for children and young people with autism and mental health problems. With the right support at the right time, children with autism can have good mental health just as anyone else can – and the Young Campaigners Group aim to make this a reality.”
To help the Young Campaigners with their cause, the NAS is calling on supporters to ask their local authority to pledge to use the charter to improve support from CAMHS for children with autism in their area. You can email those who are responsible for CAMHS in your local area by visiting the following page on our website www.autism.org.uk/youneedtoknow
Thursday, 17 March 2011
Mark Reckless MP has announced his support for a scheme that sees school kids encouraged to start a business with just £10 each, in the biggest ever Tenner Tycoon challenge.
The Rochester and Strood MP is backing the landmark scheme, called Tenner Tycoon, which will see the campaigning charity Enterprise UK loan hundreds of thousands of pounds to young people across the UK to encourage them to start up their own businesses.
Participants in Tenner Tycoon will receive £10 and be challenged to make as much profit and social good as they can in a month.
Speaking of the scheme, Mark Reckless said:
"Tenner Tycoon is an innovative scheme which gives our young people in Rochester and Strood the chance to showcase their skills and ingenuity whilst gaining practical business experience. The programme’s relevance and importance has never been as great as it is this year – the year that aims to kick-start the ‘entrepreneurial decade’.
"Having visited a number of schools recently I know that there are many young people in this constituency with the potential to succeed. We need to support initiatives like Tenner Tycoon that aim to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and therefore ensure the future prosperity of Medway and the UK as a whole."
This year, the challenge is to also ‘give something back’ and participants are encouraged to donate some of their profits to charity. The scheme, supported by the Peter Jones Foundation, has been a huge success since it launched in 2007. Previous winners have made their money in diverse ways such as fashion shows, cookery books and concerts.
For more information please contact:
Jessica De Pree
0207 199 2205 or 07811 381445
0207 199 2206 or 07973 570967
Notes for editors:
About Tenner Tycoon
Enterprise UK’s ‘Tenner Tycoon’ campaign is the UK’s nationwide competition that generates excitement and enthusiasm about enterprise in school children.
Formerly known as ‘Make Your Mark with a Tenner’, the scheme will see Enterprise UK loan £400,000 to 40,000 young people across the UK to encourage them to start up their own businesses.
Each participant will receive £10 and is challenged to ‘make a profit, make a difference and give back’.
The campaign is generously supported by Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Peter Jones, Big Lottery Fund and Michael and Xochi Birch, founders of the social networking site Bebo.
For further information please visit:
Saturday, 12 March 2011
Writing to the acting Chief Executive of Medway PCT, Helen Buckingham, on 28th February, Mark expressed his concerns that the closure of the clinics in Rochester and Strood would leave many elderly and frail residents being forced to make longer and more expensive journeys to the nearest alternative proposed clinics:
Dear Ms Buckingham,
I have been contacted by a number of constituents who are concerned about the imminent closure of the phlebotomy clinic held at the Delce Healthy Living Centre with little notice and no apparent consultation. I understand this follows an email sent to doctors and staff from Mr XXXXX XXXXXXX, XXX XX XXXXXXX at NHS Medway.
I would be grateful if you could confirm that the information I have been given is correct, and also advise me of what other phlebotomy clinics, if any, the PCT are planning on closing over the coming months here in Rochester and Strood. I understand the services at Keystones Centre in Strood may also be under threat.
Based on the information I have been provided with, I am concerned that such a move will result in many of my constituents being forced to make longer and more expensive journeys to Medway Hospital for a service that, to date, has been run successfully in association with local GP surgeries. Given government plans to hand authority for local healthcare commissioning to GP Consortia, I am somewhat surprised that this action is being taken at this time.
I am also concerned at the apparent lack of consultation on the proposed changes. Can you advise me as to how and when the PCT arrived at the decision to close these clinics, and what consultation and impact studies, if any, were undertaken?
Given the anxiety this is causing to my constituents and the relatively short notice period that has been given, I ask that the closures of these surgeries are postponed to allow for a proper review of the proposals.
I look forward to a response at your earliest convenience.
Mark Reckless MP
Member of Parliament for Rochester and Strood
In a response received today, Helen Buckingham has stated that:
Following recent discussions with local GPs in Rochester we are working with them to provide a GP led blood-testing service at Rochester Healthy Living Centre; we will be providing more information about this as soon as possible.
Despite this assurance from the acting Chief Executive of Medway PCT, Mark Reckless remains concerned that the reorganisation of phlebotomy services in Medway, particularly in Rochester and Strood, are being pushed through without full and proper consultation of current users of the service.
Medway PCT have stated that an additional £83,500 has been set aside by Medway NHS to improve the phlebotomy service in Medway which will result in additional 266 hours of availability across Medway each week.
However, based on currently published plans this does not translate into an improvement for users of the clinic at Delce Healthy Living Centre. Mark does not believe it is acceptable for residents to have to wait until June for the current plan to be reviewed whilst the plans, as they currently stand, leave a huge gap in the service here in Rochester and Strood.
Mark is urging residents to support the independent campaign set up by local campaigner Brenda Towler. Petitions are now available in many local stores and pharmacies. You can also sign the petition online by clicking here, or you can join the Facebook group here.
Thursday, 10 March 2011
Following a huge team effort involving dog lovers from right the way across the country, Rocco was eventually found by walkers in woods near Tescos in Gillingham.
Mark, who was happy to help with the search, responded to the news by saying:
"This is great news! It was obvious how much Rocco meant to his owners so I really am pleased to hear that this story has had a happy ending.
My congratulations go out to everyone who helped in the search, particularly all the volunteers at Doglost.co.uk. I trust Rocco will enjoy being back with his family, and in his own bed.
Whilst I am glad the puppy is back home, I would still urge anyone with information on who may have stolen Rocco in the first place to contact Crimestoppers confidentially on 0800 555 111 or Kent Police on 01622 690690."
Friday, 4 March 2011
Mark Reckless: The Government’s bold Tourism Strategy will boost the economy in Rochester and Strood
The bold proposals include a consultation on extending the tourist season by moving the first Bank Holiday in May to create a new St George’s Day holiday in England and St David’s Day in Wales.
The strategy will generate four million extra overseas visitors over the next four years, bringing an extra £2 billion worth of visitor spend in to the country and creating 50,000 new jobs.
Commenting on the publication of the strategy, Mark Reckless said,
"The Coalition’s Tourism Strategy will make a huge difference to the local economy here in Rochester and Strood.
"For too long, Labour ignored the vital importance of tourism whilst suffocating the industry with red-tape.
"After years in the Labour wilderness, tourism is finally being recognised as the crucial driver of our economy that it is."
Wednesday, 2 March 2011
The funding will allow the Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, which is also converting to an Academy from April, to develop plans to establish an Academy that will cater for pupils aged 11-18 which will specialise in Media and the Performing Arts.
Commenting on the news, Mark Reckless said:
"I am absolutely delighted that a school which was in special measures as recently as April 2009 has been turned around in such a short space of time.
I would like to congratulate Dr Gary Holden (pictured) of Sir Joseph Williamson’s Maths School along with Medway Council for achieving such an outstanding turnaround.
I would also like to congratulate all of the students and parents who stuck by the school and worked really hard to make this happen.
The Hundred of Hoo school will now benefit from the increased funding, freedoms and flexibility that Academy status brings. The school will have the freedom to manage its own budget and set its own priorities away from the National Curriculum. Students will be given the best opportunity to reach high levels of personal and academic achievement.
I really am pleased for the students who currently attend the school or who are planning on attending in coming years. Thanks to local efforts and hard work, the Hoo Peninsula will now have a first rate school to be proud of and I welcome this news.
Well done to all concerned!"
Monday, 21 February 2011
Friday, 18 February 2011
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
He took part in their usual programme of activities, as well as participating in various extra songs for the ChatterBox Challenge event, including ‘Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes’ and the ‘Hokey Cokey’.
More than 2,000 Talking Tots pre-schoolers in 150 centres in the UK took part in an extra 10 minutes of action songs and rhymes for I CAN’s 10th Chatterbox Challenge.
Talking Tots, the programme designed to develop children’s speech and language skills is fully supporting the Communication Trusts’ ‘Hello’ campaign with various activities, as they share the vision of giving every child the opportunity to be confident communications.
The Chatterbox Challenge, Talking Tots’ first activity for the year was an ideal charity choice. “Good communication skills are vital for children to enjoy their childhood. They need to be able to communicate confidently in order to socialise and make friends, learn and participate in class when they start school and this vital skill will stay with them for life,” said Lisa Houghton, co-founder of talking Tots. “Raising money for a charity that is dedicated to giving every child the opportunity to be confident communicators is a great fit for us at Talking Tots,” continued Lisa.
Children were sponsored to participate in action songs and rhymes including I CAN’s featured song, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. Children from Talking Tots classes in Gravesend and Strood joined in the charity fundraiser with excitement.
Claire Hitchcock, Talking Tots leader for the North Kent area said, “Our children were fantastic and we were pleased to see our local MP joining in with our songs. They and their parents enjoyed doing their bit for I CAN.”
Talking Tots classes will be raising further funds for ICAN when they attempt to break the world record for performing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. The event will take place in St George’s Church Hall in Gravesend on Tuesday 1st March. You can find out more about Talking Tots by visiting http://www.talkingtots.info/.
For more information please call Claire Hitchcock on 07754 866592
Monday, 14 February 2011
‘Rock The House’ is a music competition with a political twist; supporting unsigned bands and artists, it will raise political awareness of the importance of music and other creative businesses to the UK.
Launched by Mike Weatherley - MP and champion for the music industry - Rock The House offers entry categories covering both Live Bands and Live Music Venues - and is open for entries now.
Bands and venues are invited to enter themselves, via their local MP, who will make nominations to a judging panel of music industry heavyweights on behalf of their own constituencies.
Entries can be submitted until the closing date of 31st March 2011. Further details and the official application form are available online at: http://www.rockthehouse.me.uk/ and winners will be announced by the end of May and all competition finalists will be invited to attend an exclusive star-studded event on the Terrace of the House of Commons on 30th June.
Local bands and venues in the Rochester and Strood constituency are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org or send in a CD/DVD with details to his constituency office at Mark Reckless MP, Suite 6, 4A Castle View Mews, Castle Hill, Rochester ME1 1LA.
Sponsors and supporters include: UK Music, Future Publishing, EMI, Yamaha, Consumer Focus, Incorporated Society of Musicians, and All Party Parliamentary Group on Music (APPG).
Thursday, 10 February 2011
Mark Reckless, Member of Parliament for Rochester and Strood, congratulates Medway Council for finding £23 million of required savings, whilst protecting front line services.
"This is an excellent testament to the work done by my Conservative colleagues on Council to ensure that residents still get good services and an efficient Council. We understand the need for Councils to make cuts, in the same way as our residents and their families have had to, and I praise the responsible way in which Medway Council, and in particular Finance Chief Councillor Alan Jarrett have done this with minimal impact to our Medway residents.
What we do not understand is why similar cuts are not being made to the E.U. budget. We are delighted that other councils are following our lead and calling for MPs to force cuts to the E.U. budget similar to the ones local councils have had to make".
Tuesday, 8 February 2011
Mark Reckless recently called on Rochester and Strood residents to help him choose a local organisation for the awards.
Following feedback from contributors and regular visitors to this site, Mark has decided to nominate local community organisations Medway Magic and Strood Community Project for the prestigious awards.
The annual Centre for Social Justice Awards recognise effective poverty fighting groups from across the UK. Now in its sixth year, the CSJ Awards have brought over 70 winning voluntary groups to the attention of the national media and policy makers and a total of £223,250 has been given out to date.
Mark recently visited Medway MAGIC during their meeting at Woodies Youth Centre to hear for himself how the group is helping provide support to parents of children with Autism.
MAGIC stands for Medway Autism Group Information Centre and the group was formed to provide information and support to parents by parents whom themselves live with Autism.
In their own words:
Having an Autistic child is demanding in itself and often there is little time to find out more about Autism. Collectively we have a vast amount of information and experiences and are able to help each other get the best for our children. The children also benefit from having a network of friends.
MAGIC offers a point of contact for information on all aspects of Autism and co-existing conditions. We also aim to meet your child’s needs and make each event as individual and suitable as possible.
Speaking after the visit, Mark said:
“I was tremendously impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication shown by all the volunteers and parents at Medway MAGIC.
I know from my own MP casework that having a child with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome or Autistic Syndrome (ASD) can be challenging in terms of finding the right help and advice. Having a local community network like MAGIC who can offer the support that parents need is very welcome.
Medway MAGIC has done a great job in raising awareness of the issues surrounding children with Autism and I found the meeting really constructive.
I’d like to thank all the parents and volunteers who gave up their time to meet me and I am proud to offer my support to both Medway MAGIC and Strood Community Project by way of nominating them for the CSJ Awards.
I was originally seeking to submit one group for this year’s awards, but having seen the fantastic work that is being undertaken by both organisations I simply couldn’t choose one over the other.
Though Strood Community Project and Medway MAGIC work with the public in different ways, they share a common purpose in helping tackle the underlying causes of social problems and challenges faced by the community here in Rochester and Strood and beyond. I wish them both well."
Responding to the nomination, Kate Broom of Strood Community Project said:
“We are a non-profit organisation so the work we do isn’t rewarded with a large bonus or a pay cheque. We rely on volunteers to give up their time to help others so having some recognition for all their effort is our bonus.
It is fantastic to have been nominated for this award and I know it will mean a lot to the people of Strood who have been there to support us since we started in 2006.”
To find out more about how Medway MAGIC and Strood Community Project are working to help our community, please visit their respective websites here and here.
Monday, 7 February 2011
Mark joined fellow Kent MP Tracey Crouch during the student's most recent news day where teams are tasked with producing 15 minute news broadcasts as part of their course.
Student Laura Hartmann welcomed Mark's help:
"For us as students, it was great getting a sitting MP into our tv studio as a live guest - especially as it was the first ever TV news day for us second years."
Mark responded by saying:
It's great to be asked and to be able to assist local students when I can. I really enjoyed the experience and would like to wish everyone involved the very best with their studies."
Thursday, 3 February 2011
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Mark Reckless MP asked the Minister what steps his department planned to take to assist the elderly and people on low incomes with the planned transition from analogue to digital television and received the following response;
Mr Vaizey: The Government and the BBC have set up the Digital Switchover Help Scheme (DSHS) to offer those 75 or over, disabled and visually impaired people and care home residents practical help to make the switch to digital television on one of their sets.
We estimate that over 7 million households will be eligible for help through the switchover period.
By January 2011, DSHS had mailed nearly 4 million people and completed 430,000 installations and deliveries.
Participating in the scheme costs a subsidised £40. However, help is available free of charge where the eligible person is also in receipt of certain income related benefits.
The help scheme is rolled out in each TV region as switchover approaches and every eligible person in that region is contacted directly by post in the run up to switchover.
The help scheme will:
- provide easy-to-use equipment that suits a person's needs;
- help with installing equipment;
- fit a new dish or aerial, where they can, if it is needed to make the new equipment work;
- give people an easy-to-understand demonstration of how everything works;
- provide a free telephone support service and a comprehensive network of trained and accredited installers that will be able to deal with any queries about installation or use; and
- develop links with local charities and voluntary groups to identify ways in which they can help support aspects of the Help Scheme.
The scheme is funded through £603 million ring-fenced within the BBC's licence fee income over the period of switchover.
Mark also asked what steps will be taken to alleviate the difficulties which many households in Rochester and Strood currently experience with digital television reception ahead of the analogue switch off;
Mr Vaizey: In common with other areas of the UK yet to undergo digital switchover, it is the case that reliable coverage of digital terrestrial television (Freeview) signals is currently unlikely to be available in some parts of Rochester and Strood. The primary reason for this is that until digital switchover takes place, the power of the digital transmitters is necessarily restricted to relatively low levels in order to prevent interference being caused to the existing analogue signals. However, when switchover takes place, the power of the digital transmitters will be raised to, on average, 10 times their current levels which will significantly extend their coverage. By the time that the nationwide switchover process is complete, digital TV signals will reach the same number of households as the analogue signals they replace (approximately 98.5% of the UK population).
Viewers in Rochester and Strood can potentially receive signals from a number of TV regions. Viewers that receive Meridian and London ITV services will switch fully to digital in 2012; while any that receive Anglia ITV services will switch later this year.
Thursday, 27 January 2011
Q168 Mark Reckless: In Kent we have already identified £11.5 million of savings through collaboration with Essex, and there are one or two other examples—Herts and Beds comes to mind—where there has been good progress. But generally the savings from collaboration have been rather disappointing, and I wondered whether you thought Ministers might be able to accelerate this, or whether you would look to the directly elected police and crime commissioners to be able to drive out much more substantive savings through collaboration?
Nick Herbert: I think I agree with you that progress up until now has been too slow, but I think that is partly because there hasn’t been the kind of fiscal driver to do it. Now that police forces know that they are receiving less grant for the next four years, that is, I think, changing the incentives, both for chief constables and for police authorities. It is driving much more interest on the part of police forces in collaboration, outsourcing, better procurement, and so on. Because they all share the same desire as we do in the Government, which is to maintain the front-line policing service and the service that the public receives and find savings in other ways, in better use of taxpayers’ money.
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Mark Reckless MP recently met up with Tom Hearing, UK Young Scientist of the Year 2010, during filming at the House of Commons for a BBC TV science show to be broadcast later in March.
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Speaking shortly after the announcement by the DECC, Mark Reckless said:
"There has been a growing need to improve the the South East's energy security for some time.
This new station will be one of the most efficient power plants in the world, and will produce relatively low CO2 emissions. It will also be built carbon capture ready meaning it can be retrofitted at a later stage once this experimental technology has become commercially viable.
Given the rural nature of the Hoo Peninsula, particularly the Marshes Special Protection Area, it is reassuring to hear that Natural England have confirmed that the proposed development will not adversely affect the local environment.
I especially welcome the commitment from Scottish Power to provide employment for local residents, particularly in light of the pending closure of Kingsnorth due to EU regulations.
After years of dithering under the last government, we are now taking the steps needed to secure our country's future energy supply whilst providing new jobs locally."
Monday, 24 January 2011
Picture: Mark Reckless MP with local hero James Hargreaves. Photo courtesy of Medway Messenger.
James, of Cliffe Woods, had previously been unable to get the MoD to accept his claim for the medal following his service with the 40th Field Regiment Royal Artillery during the Suez Crisis in 1956.
Mr Hargreaves sailed out from Cardiff on the US ship S.S. Kingsbury to the conflict zone with a small complement from his Regiment.
Although the ship was on the list of those eligible for the GSM with Near East clasp, the MoD had previously turned down James's request for the medal as the deployment was not shown on his service record.
In a bid to resolve the situation James turned to Mark Reckless to help break the deadlock with the MoD, and Mark was more than happy to take up the case on behalf of his constituent.
After contacting the Medal Office asking them to review Mr Hargreaves' case, the MoD wrote back to advise they would look into the matter. Shortly thereafter the MoD confirmed that, following Mark's intervention, they had agreed to issue the medal to James for his service during the Suez Crisis.
Speaking after meeting Mr Hargreaves, Mark said:
"I was absolutely delighted when I heard that the Medal Office had agreed to issue Mr Hargreaves with his GSM with clasp Near East.
Mr Hargreaves had tried for a long time to get the Ministry of Defence to review his claim for the medal, but had had no joy in doing so and subsequently asked for my assistance.
I was able to write to the MoD as Mr Hargreaves' Member of Parliament to insist they look into the case, and I am glad to report that the matter has now been resolved to my constituent's satisfaction.
Being able to help people like Mr Hargreaves was the primary reason why I entered politics. Casework is a large part of the role of being an MP, and I am honoured to be in the position to help a local hero like James gain the recognition he so richly deserves.
It was an absolute pleasure to meet James in person and thank him for his service to our country. I hope the medal will be a source of pride and pleasure for him for many years to come."
In response to the meeting, James Hargreaves said:
"I'd like to thank Mark most sincerely for his help and assistance in procuring my GSM and clasp Near East. I am sure that without Mark's help I would still be trying to obtain it.
Thank you again."
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Visiting the project’s office and shop in Strood High Street, Mark was keen to learn more about the wide range of assistance the Strood Community Project provides to local residents.
Strood Community Project was set up as an initiative of the Parishes of St Francis of Assisi and St Nicholas with St Mary, together with Strood Gospel Mission Church (Baptist affiliated). It aims to help the local community tackle fundamental issues such as education, safety, increased employment, life skills and crime.
The Project is run by a group of dedicated staff working alongside volunteers who provide advice and counselling to the public on a wide range of issues such as housing, debt, and employment.
Photo: Mark Reckless MP visits Strood Community Project. From left: Kate Broom (project manager), Paul Robinson (general manager), Mark and Paul Rai (volunteer)
During the visit Mark got the opportunity to discuss how Strood Community Project has developed since it’s establishment in 2006, and it’s plans for the future which include registering as a charitable company.
As well as offering ‘walk in’ advice to the public, Strood Community Project has developed the range of services it provides to include basic skills tuition in English and Maths, computer skills training, CV preparation and interview skills training, and bespoke projects which improve the physical environment within the local area.
Volunteer Paul Rai is calling for local residents to help as volunteers:
“I got involved with the Strood Community Project because I want to help the people in my community. The project can’t afford full-time advisors and relies on volunteers to help people who come in off the street with their problems. We make sure we listen to everyone and provide the support and guidance they need, no matter what the problem is.
Through volunteering I’ve learnt how to help people who have problems with debt or housing, and you often find that the issues people discuss with us are often caused by more serious problems that aren’t being addressed. We can help with that!
I would strongly urge anyone who cares about our community to get involved with the Strood Community Project. It brings our community together, and for some it could be a lifesaver.”
Paul Robinson, general manager, was encourage by the visit:
"It was a privilege to welcome Mark Reckless to our Advice Centre. This acknowledgement of the importance of community organisations in addressing local needs was a great encouragement and we look forward to keeping him informed with developments in our work.
Being an independent, local organisation we are able to respond to community issues as they become apparent and we see this as a vital characteristic of an organisation that intends to thrive over the coming few years."
Speaking after the visit, Mark Reckless said:
“I’m really impressed with how the Strood Community Project has progressed since I first visited when it opened. To me the SCP is a good model for how local charities and community projects can work to improve our local area by empowering residents and helping them to address their problems.
I was particularly impressed with the work they are doing with volunteers such as Paul Rai. By providing them with the skills to tackle issues such as poor social housing or debt problems, they are investing in more than just the volunteer. They are investing in our community.”
For more information on the Strood Community Project, please visit http://www.stroodcommunityproject.org.uk/ or call 01634 298747.
Saturday, 15 January 2011
Jennifer, a local gap year student, is starting a campaign to end this discrimination. Mark welcomed Jennifer to Westminster to discuss some questions she had, such as whether or not introducing tuition fees in Scotland would mean that the increase in fees in the rest of the UK could be less drastic.
At the core of the discussion was the fact that the English taxpayer effectively props up the Scottish Government’s devolved budget, enabling Holyrood to provide Scottish students with free education, whereas English students have to carry debts of tens of thousands of pounds into their working life. Fair?
Speaking on the issue, Mark Reckless said:
“I agree with the issues Jennifer has raised. I support the campaign she has started to address the imbalance and to raise people’s awareness in an effort to make the system fairer.”
For more information on this issue, Jennifer has created a website: http://equalunifees.webs.com/
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
Labour left the country with an annual overspend of £156 billion, greater than at any point in our peacetime history. Money spent just paying the interest on their £790 billion debt bill is money that could otherwise be spent on front line services.
Commenting, Mark Reckless said:
“Labour’s addiction to debt means each and every taxpayer now has to spend weeks of the year working just to pay the interest bill.
“If we listened to Labour the debt would be £100 billion higher. They must never be put in charge of our public finances again.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
New research has shown that someone on average earnings in Rochester and Strood will spend 22 days just paying for Labour’s debt interest bill. Labour left office with the country owing £790 billion, more than at any time in our peacetime history (HM Treasury, Public Finances Databank, Table Key M, link).
The independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts debt interest spending of £42.7 billion in 2010-11 (OBR, Economic and Fiscal Outlook, Table 4.14, link). There are 30.5 million taxpayers, so on average each taxpayer will pay £1,400 in debt interest (HMRC, Number of individual income taxpayers, link).
Figures from the ONS show median earnings in Rochester and Strood are £22,959 (ONS, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, Table 10.7a, 8 December 2010, link).
This means that 6.1 per cent of an average person’s income goes on debt interest.
This works out at 22 days spent just paying for debt interest.
Monday, 10 January 2011
Arriving back in Westminster following recess and before many other MPs, Mark was happy to welcome the students to the House of Commons and respond directly to their questions.
“It was a pleasure to meet such mature and interested young adults, who will be part of the future of our country. It’s really positive that young people are showing an interest in the political system and the issues that affect us all. I particularly welcomed the opportunity to listen to the concerns of young people studying in my constituency.
I am always happy to welcome students and members of the public from my constituency to Westminster in small or large groups. Anyone wishing to visit should call my Westminster office on 020 7219 7135 and we will do our best to accommodate any requests.”
Friday, 7 January 2011
Regina, a constituent of Mark's, graduated from Hull University last summer with a degree in psychology and previously attended Rochester Independent College and Chatham Grammar School for Boys (Mixed Sixth Form). A member of the British Psychological Society, Regina enjoys playing the classical piano and is a green belt in karate!
Mark is always very happy to consider requests for internships from young people in his constituency who may be considering a career in politics, or are looking for more general work experience. If you would like to register your interest, please email email@example.com
Mark hopes that Regina enjoys her time working as an intern, and the experience proves to be of value as she begins her working career. Welcome!
Monday, 3 January 2011
Dr Alpha Wurie is competing in a primary to be the candidate for President of the centre-right Sierra Leone People's Party which was founded in 1951 and led Sierra Leone to independence on 27th April 1961.
I was told on New Year's Eve that Dr Wurie was spending New Year with family on St Mary's Island in my constituency and I was honoured to be invited round the next day to meet him, family members and supporters.
Dr Wurie's sister has worked at Medway hospital and he himself has connections in the UK, having graduated from Brunel University and been a visiting fellow at the School of Science, Greenwich University with its campus in Medway.
After the short New Year break Dr Wurie is heading back to Sierra Leone next week to campaign through to a vote of around 700 delegates of his party, who will choose their candidate for President on 5th March. The general election will then take place in 2012.
Britain has of course been closely and positively involved in Sierra Leone in recent years and we all wish Sierra Leone well for free and fair elections. Mr Wurie is campaigning for "Opportunity for Life" and is building on his decade-long record as Minister for Education under President Kabbah. I was fascinated to hear how he intended to extend some of the Health, Education and Infrastructural facilities available in towns into the rural areas of Sierra Leone and instil a stronger culture of respect.
My local Conservative Association has been delighted to welcome so many Africans who have recently moved into the Rochester and Strood area. It is also a real benefit for me as the MP to make links with leading politicians in other countries and hear about their campaigning. I certainly hope to stay in touch with Alpha Wurie and will be following his campaign with great interest.
Sunday, 2 January 2011
Following Southeastern's Nightmare before Christmas where the managing director of the rail firm, Charles Horton, was hauled into Westminster to explain to Kent MPs the company's abysmal failure to cope with the snow at the start of December, Mark has slammed Southeastern's decision to increase season ticket prices by 9% or £276 for hard-pressed commuters in Rochester and Strood.
Speaking on the subject, Mark said:
"I have become increasingly frustrated with Southeastern Trains. I have tried very hard to work with Southeastern to help it deal with the concerns of rail users in the Rochester and Strood area, but I have now come to the conclusion that the company is not fit for purpose.
Southeastern's attitude to its customers is, in my opinion, nothing short of disgraceful. I have received numerous complaints from constituents regarding the level of service, or lack thereof, provided by Southeastern. As a regular commuter myself, I sympathise very strongly with hard-working taxpayers who are basically being held to ransom by a company which appears to have little interest in delivering a decent service to commuters, let alone one that provides value for money.
As a former City economist, I simply cannot make sense of Southeastern's justification for the distribution of the latest fare increases.
The average income in Medway is less than many other areas of Kent, e.g. Maidstone and Faversham (which enjoy comparable fares), and there is very strong competition from local commuter coach companies. One would have thought therefore that Southeastern might use the flexibility it now has to hold fare increases in Medway below the average, yet they are imposing a 9% increase in fares, higher than the 7.8% average they are allowed. Southeastern's actions are looking increasingly commercially self-defeating.
This is not the action of a sensible competitor and is simply unjustifiable. Why should commuters to London from Strood and Rochester pay the same as those from Rainham and nearly as much as those who commute twice the distance from elsewhere in Kent?
Having worked closely with Chris Irvine’s Medway Fares Fair campaign (pictured right), I have long considered, but not previously accepted, their argument that Southeastern should be stripped of its franchise.
However, the distribution of these latest fare increases, combined with the news that Southeastern commuters will not enjoy an automatic season ticket discount despite the pitiful performance in December, suggests that Southeastern Trains is beyond redemption.
The company is simply treating the Kent franchise as a cash cow and does not even appear to be making decisions which are commercially sensible. Southeastern should be stripped of the franchise as soon as possible."