Since the election has been called I am no longer an MP. Electorate and Editor permitting I hope to return to this column after the election.
21st April 2017
This week I had the pleasure of going to see the Poppies Wave at Barge Pier which is located in Gunners Park, Shoebury. Poppies Wave is being displayed from the 12th April to the 25th June 2017. The artist behind this amazing display is Paul Cummins and the designer is Tom Piper. This particular art display is being displayed at two locations across the UK, with Shoeburyness being the only location in the East of England to benefit from this unique sculpture.
When I arrived at Gunners Park it didn’t take long for me to see the poppies on the horizon, visibly creating a red wave in the distance. As I approached the sculpture I could see the individual poppy heads which collectively create a wave, rising from Barge Pier towards the Estuary.
Poppies Wave marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and as Southend saw one of the first air raids attack on the UK it is fitting that this sculpture is being displayed here, free for all to see. The sculpture is available to be viewed all day, seven days a week and there are Poppy Volunteers available to greet visitors from 9am – 7pm each day.
So far, since the sculpture was officially opened this week, social media has been alive with photos from visitors who have travelled from near and far to view this amazing sculpture. There are two platforms that are wheelchair accessible that give you a closer look at the Poppies. Once you have seen the poppies, you don’t need to rush off, you are able to sit down and have a tea, coffee or ice cream and enjoy the sculpture.
I urge everyone to go and see for yourselves the fantastic Poppies Wave at Gunners Park. It really is a work of art and we are all very lucky to have this on display here in Southend. If you would like for further information then you can email email@example.com visit http://www.visitsouthend.co.uk/poppies/ and they are also on twitter using #poppies. As ever, if you have any issue you would like to raise with me, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
27th March 2017
This week I had a meeting in Southend with the largest Independent Chartered Accountancy and Tax Advisors firm in Essex, Rickard Luckin. You may have heard of the company Rickard Keen, well eighteen months ago Rickard Keen merged with Bird Luckin and formed Rickard Luckin. They have offices in Southend, Basildon and Chelmsford and I visited the offices in Nelson Street Southend. During the meeting I met with Alan Worsdale, Director, Bill Gould, Director, Jamie Nice Tax Director and Managing Director Janis Osborne and we discussed issues and opportunities there are for the local business community here in Southend.
In addition to opportunities for local businesses we talked about tourism and Southend infrastructure. I was particularly interested to hear all about a graduate programme they offer which is an in house training programme and this results in the graduate being a fully qualified chartered accountant at the end of the programme. Not only do they work with graduates, they also have a scheme for school leavers too.
After my meeting at Rickard Luckin I went over to Rochford and met with Jackie Pope, a local community activist who dedicates her time to supporting the local community. Also present at the meeting were two local councillors Cllr Arthur Williams and Cllr Laureen Shaw. Jackie updated me on a number of projects that she is working on including a dance troop, arts and crafts and ballet all of which take place at St Mark’s Hall. Jackie recently decided that she no longer wants to work with just the youth, she wants to run groups and events for the elderly residents in Rochford. She is currently organising a St George’s Day Afternoon Tea and has had invitations made and is inviting all the residents from the local retirement homes to go and celebrate St George’s Day with her.
When I meet people like Jackie I can’t help but appreciate everything they do for the local community. Not only do they spend their time organising events for everyone to enjoy. They pull together individuals within the community who may otherwise have been isolated and they make a really positive impact on the lives of so many.
20th March 2017
I recently visited the new offices of Rayleigh Rochford and District Association for Voluntary Services. They have moved to new offices and invited me along to see their new home! Whilst I was there we spoke about a number of initiatives that they have worked and some new schemes they will be working on in the future. The role of RRAVS is to support local charities and community groups to achieve their full potential, much like Southend Adult Voluntary Services based in Alexandra Street in Southend. Both organisations support charities and community groups with training, offering advice and guidance, funding support and assisting in the organising of community events. Not only that but they have a database of volunteers who are keen to support individuals or groups within the community and give their time in a voluntary capacity. They will match the skills of the volunteer with the requirements of the community group or charity to ensure a productive working relationship.
One of the schemes they told me about was an 11 week course of computer training called The Computer Café. The course is suitable for beginners and each week there will be a guided session with guest speakers and this project is run in conjunction with the Hamelin Trust.
Another project is called The Knit to Nurture Network and aims to produce knitted goods for the local community and charitable causes. Whilst I was there they showed me a box of Twiddle Muffs that had been knitted by the group. These knitted hand muffs have buttons, ribbons or textured fabric attached to them. The Knit to Nuture Network meet each Wednesday at 2pm and if you are interested in joining the group then email email@example.com and they will send you all the information including knitting patterns and wool and needles if needed to get you started.
For further information about all the projects offered at Rayleigh Rochford and District Association for Voluntary Services visit www.rravs.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like additional information about Southend Association of Voluntary Services please visit www.savs-southend.org or email email@example.com.
13th March 2017
This week I visited Southend United Football Club. No, I hadn’t gone expecting to see them play, I knew they were away this week! I had been invited to visit the club and to meet with some young people who were one week into a ten week course with Seetec. I visited the Club’s Facilities Management Academy that is run in conjunction with Seetec.
I met with the six trainees who are the first group that are undertaking the 100 hour work placement. They are all working alongside the Club’s facilities team where they are learning how to prepare and maintain the Southend stadium which seats 12,392 fans.
During my meeting I was able to speak to each of the students individually and I was really interested to hear how all of the students were, not only enjoying the course, but also what they had done prior to joining the scheme and what they are planning to do after they have completed the ten week course.. I
It was quite clear from everyone involved in this scheme, from the tutor, to the staff at Roots Hall and the students, everyone has a shared desire for this scheme to be a huge success and for this cohort to be the first of many benefitting from this opportunity.
Whilst all students shared an interest in football, one of the students that I met was an exceptionally passionate Southend United fan . He is a regular spectator at matches and he took pride in recalling monumental moments in the clubs history. Not only that he is always looking forward to the next game!
It is that enthusiasm that will make this course, and courses like this, successful. Taking a passion or an interest and using it as a platform for education and opportunity.
I would like to wish all of the students the very best of luck, not just for this course, but for their future studies too and I would urge anyone that is aged between 16-18 who is interested in traineeships at Southend United to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
6th March 2017
My wife suggested that we took the children out for breakfast during the last school holidays. Never one to turn down a cooked breakfast I readily agreed, especially as I like going to new places. As a Member of Parliament you are more aware than others of new places opening and a good part of the job is feeling obliged to pop in, especially the cafes!
ATTIC is located at 48 Eastern Esplanade and is a special place. ATTIC stands for “all the tea in china and they specialise in fruit teas – whilst I was there I had a salted caramel tea and took away with me a bakewell tart tea! ATTIC are a working café with a difference. They offer adults with learning disabilities and difficulties an opportunity to gain valuable work experience in a fun and safe environment. They offer a safe and sympathetic place to visit with friends or family who are learning disabled. They also have good access for the physically disabled providing wheelchair access too.
The food was very good and the place looked more like a mad hatter’s tea party than a café. All the décor centres around tea, there are tea chests, tea caddies, tea cups and tea pots!
The café was opened with the aim of offering a creative and sustainable café for all for people to visit, relax and enjoy. Their menu prides itself on offering healthy, locally sourced produce.
I would encourage everyone to take a trip to the ATTIC. Don’t just take my word for it! My three children all enjoyed our time at the café, they loved the food, enjoyed the unique setting and are looking forward to our next visit! If you want to find out more about the ATTIC visit www.attic-southend.co.uk, /Atticsouthend on facebook or call them on 01702 468 321
If you have a new business in Rochford and Southend East I have not visited do contact me via email email@example.com, or you can call my offices on 01702 616 135 and speak to Lucy Paton-Brown to arrange the visit.
27th Feb 2017
This week I wanted to write about smart meters after receiving an information pack on them this week which I found really interesting. I thought it would be useful to share the information with you.
Some may ask what is a smart meter? Well, smart meters are new gas and electricity meters that are being installed in homes and small businesses to replace traditional meters. These meters are being installed free of charge and the main difference between these new meters and the meters we currently have is that they will show how much energy is being used in your home and how much is being spent in pounds and pence. The new smart meters are being supplied between now and 2020 and are even available if you have a prepay meter or are in rented accommodation.
The smart meter system has two parts, the meter that will replace the existing meter and an in-home display which displays how much gas and electricity is being used and how much that will cost. This information is shared automatically with the supplier to ensure energy bills are accurate.
The in-house display is able to sit anywhere in the home and there are various settings which will allow the customer to see how much energy is being used by the hour, week or month.
As I have already said, the new meters are being installed for free. The installation should take a couple of hours and during the installation your gas and electricity will have to be turned off but once it is installed energy usage will be able to be monitored closely.
Also, if you have solar panels you can still benefit from a smart meter. Your bills will reflect the energy you have used and the energy you have generated yourself. The in-home display will show how much energy you are buying from your supplier.
Businesses with less than 10 employees may also be eligible for a free upgrade so it is worth looking into if you own a business to see if you are eligible.
For more information visit https://www.smartenergygb.org/get-yours
20th Feb 2017
This week my I visited Gazel, an organisation based in Rochford who support adults with learning disabilities. Gillian Blake founded the organisation twelve years ago and based Gazel at St Luke’s Place in Rochford. Gill and her team supports adults over the age of 25 with learning disabilities. They are open five days a week from 9.30am – 3.30pm. They offer a wide range of activities each session for the service users and they also hold special events throughout the year.
I spent time speaking to the service users to find out what they enjoyed about their time at the group and learning about some of the activities they do. What struck me, from the very first person I spoke to, was how much they love their time there, how they have friendships with the staff and how the group all works together.
Not only do the staff provide activities, they work with the group to encourage independent living and they have staff from the advocacy group Batias visit every two weeks to discuss any issues that may be relevant to them. They also offer support to develop the groups IT skills. They majority of service users have been referred to Gazel through their social worker however people are able to be referred by friends, family or indeed self-refer. If you know of anyone that would be interested in the services offered at Gazel, then please contact Gill on 01702 530968 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
After my visit to Gazel I headed back to my constituency offices where I held my surgery. Following surgery I met with the Principle of South East Essex College, Angela O Donoghue. Angela updated me on what is happening at the college, new courses that they are offering and also the opportunities that are available for people who may want to take evening and weekend classes whilst they are in employment. These courses are suitable if you want to reskill or pursue a new profession or if you are wanting. If you are interested visit their website which is https://www.southessex.ac.uk/
14th Feb 2017
It is said that twenty four hours is a long time in politics, and that is definitely true of this week! This week started out in Parliament like every other week. I arrived in Westminster on Monday with a week of meetings and debates in the Chamber lined up. Then the focus shifted once I heard the comments from The Speaker of the House, John Bercow MP regarding the possible State Visit by American President, Donald Trump to the UK and whether he should be granted the opportunity of addressing both the Lords and MP’s in Westminster Hall.
The role of Speaker of House dates back to 1377 when Sir Thomas Hungerford was appointed. There was a similar role dating back to 1258 and this prestigious role is based on tradition and history.
One of the roles traditions is that the Speaker will not be affiliated to any political party, nor will they share personal or party opinion in the Chamber of the House. To do so removes impartiality and the Speaker will not be able to fulfil the role impartially.
When Speaker Bercow told the floor of the House his views on a State Visit to Parliament from President Donal Trump he broke this long standing tradition of impartiality, and as such should no longer hold office. I think it is worth clarifying that whether the visit should or shouldn’t go ahead and the access to Westminster Hall being granted or not is not the question or the issue. The issue is that the role and traditions that have been in place for centuries were broken and it is my view that speaker Bercow is no longer fit to serve as Speaker. It was for that reason that I then wrote to the Prime Minister asking her to ensure that if a vote is taken on this matter that Ministers are entitled to a free vote. I then tabled an Early Day Motion with a vote of no confidence in the Speaker.
It is important that I reiterate, this is not about whether I agree or disagree in his position on the visit, this is around the traditions of the role being broken. Since writing this article it has emerged the Speaker also has expressed his view that we should have stayed in the EU. He clearly is not impartial and must go.
Feb 2nd 2017
“I was absolutely delighted when I heard the news this week that Southend Airport Business Park had been allocated funding through the Growth Deal. The bid for developing the business was park was submitted by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership and there were a number of schemes that were looking to secure funding that would unlock economic opportunities, provide employment and regenerate areas.
This is fantastic news and when I heard that the Southend Airport Business Park was one of the schemes that secured funding, I took to social media to tell everyone about this great news. Shortly afterwards, journalists were contacting me wanting comment on the funding and to share the good news.
The development sees a new Innovation Centre which will be the heart of the business park and the focus is for medical, aviation and engineering businesses. However, there will be opportunities for all businesses to network and undoubtedly there will be opportunities for the whole business community.
Within the scheme there was also funding for the road infrastructure and there will be improvements to the cycling and walking networks around the business park which will be invaluable for connecting to public transport.
The Airport Business Park will provide up to 2,600 employment opportunities too. This is great news not just for Rochford and Southend but communities further afield. Over recent years the airport has seen local job opportunities created, holiday destinations provided, increased tourism into the area and been able to connect businesses. This scheme looks set to build on the airports success and I am looking forward to seeing this development take shape.
Also this week in Parliament I asked the Prime Minister another question during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday and I attended a meeting with The Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock MP to discuss broadband issues that there are in the constituency.
My final meeting of the week was with Robert Tinlin, Chief Executive of Southend Borough Council where we caught up on all things Southend! A busy week this week with great news for Southend.”
Jan 29th 2017
Police cells, school funding, constituency surgery and campaigning. That was my Friday this week. My morning started with a tour at the official opening of the new custody suite at Southend Police Station. The custody suite has recently undergone investment and together with Roger Hirst, Police Crime Commissioner, I attended the official reopening of the suite. Chief Constable Steven Kavanagh was there to show us around the new look suite. I sat in one of the holding rooms, saw the interview rooms, a virtual court and the cells. After the official opening of the Custody Suite I went next door to the Civic Centre where I met with officials of Southend Council and Cllr James Courtenay, Portfolio Holder for Education. We had a meeting discussing the proposed National Funding Formula. The government are currently consulting on an alternative funding formula for schools across the country. Earlier this week I had an opportunity in Parliament to discuss the impact the proposed funding formula has on schools across Southend. Over the past couple of weeks I have met with, and spoken to, local schools to discuss the impact the proposed formula has. This is a perfect example of how my visits and meetings in the constituency are able to inform me on how decisions made in Westminster affect communities. It also ensures that I am speaking from an informed position during my interventions in debates in the House of Commons. After this meeting I then went back to my constituency offices where I held my surgery. After surgery I had a quick bite to eat in the office and then headed over to meet Cllr Mike Steptoe who is standing for election in the County Council elections that will be held in May. There are no local elections in Rochford or Southend this year but there are County Council elections. There is often confusion over the roles and responsibilities of elected members. There are parish, district and county councillors. Each has different areas of responsibility. Essex County Councillors are responsible for areas including adult social care, education and highways. If you would like more information on the role of the county council visit www.essex.gov.uk.
Jan 13th 2017
I mentioned recently that I was due to meet Southend’s Youth Mayor and Deputy Youth Mayor and I was looking forward to the meeting. Well last week I met Youth Mayor James Jenkins and Deputy Youth Mayor Edward Feddon and discussed the work of the Youth Council. The Youth Council is made up of Youth Councillors across Southend who are aged 11 – 18 who work to represent the views of young people to decision makers both locally and nationally. If you, or anyone you know who may be interested in becoming a member of the Youth Council, then all you need to do is attend one of the monthly meetings that are held on the first Wednesday of the month. Meetings start at 5pm and finish at 7pm. The meetings are held at Southend Borough Council Civic Centre along Victoria Avenue. You will be asked to complete an application form when you arrive and that is it you will be registered. Some people may be daunted at the thought of going along to a meeting on their own so, if you are going to go by yourself, you can contact them via email email@example.com or via Twitter @SoSYouthCouncil and let them know you plan to attend, an experienced councillor will show you around and introduce you to the other councillors.
I have written many times about the importance of engaging young people into politics and this is a great way of getting them involved. Both Edward and John are passionate about politics, about the town and trying to engage young people into politics. I am looking forward to working with them both over the coming months.
For those of you that may not have had the opportunity yet, just a reminder that you can still recycle your Christmas cards at the Marks and Spencer store in the High Street. For every 1,000 cards that are recycled the Woodlands Trust will plant a new tree. The recycling boxes are in store until the end of January. If you are unable to get into the store then cards can be recycled through your household recycling.
Jan 6th 2017
Happy New Year! 2017 is here and this is my first column of the year. I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and New Year. If your house is like mine the Christmas decorations are down, the house is looking slightly bare and as we return back to the normal routine, it may seem that Christmas was a long time ago now. However before you put the decorations back in the loft until next year can I remind you to ensure that you recycle your Christmas cards. The Woodland Trust have an annual scheme encouraging people to recycle Christmas cards. They have recycling boxes located in Marks and Spencer stores and for every 1,000 cards dropped into Marks and Spencer stores for recycling throughout January 2017, a new tree will be funded and planted in the UK.
The Woodland Trust have operated this scheme which has been in operation a number of years now and I encourage all residents to recycle their cards. If you would prefer, then you can recycle them in your household recycling.
Looking forward to what the New Year has in store, I have a number of events already in the diary. I am looking forward to meeting the volunteers at Little Heroes AD, the charity that was nominated for my Christmas donation by constituents and I have a meeting at Essex Police where I will be seeing the newly refurbished Custody Suite. I am also meeting Southend’s Youth Mayor and Deputy Youth Mayor. There are lots of events already in my diary throughout the year but I am always keen to visit new places so please do get in to touch if you would like me to attend an event. I am also looking for new venues that would be suitable for hosting my Out and About Surgery. If you have a venue that you think would be suitable or would like to suggest a location please contact my offices on 01702 616 135 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with all of the details. I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year.
30th December 2016
As I write this column it seems hard to believe that it is my last of 2016. Christmas is over and New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. This is typically a time when I look back over the year and this will be no exception! Earlier this year Roger Hirst was elected as the new Police and Crime Commissioner in Essex and I have had meetings with Roger, both in the constituency and in Parliament. I have met many businesses, schools and charities this year. Unfortunately I am unable to write about them all although I wish I could. Each visit is unique and memorable. A few highlights include visiting Bournemouth Park Primary School on Red Nose Day, never before have I seen so many children in their pyjamas! All sat beautifully and engaged in learning about politics. Also when I visited I X Camera, a slow motion camera company based in Rochford, the passion for their products, jobs and industry was remarkable. I held surgeries throughout the year and in a variety of locations. I enjoyed meeting residents of Coachman’s Court in Rochford, we spoke about everything from local politics to national headlines, pot holes to the EU referendum which of course links me nicely to the EU referendum that took place earlier this year! The EU referendum is a significant event that took place in 2016. An event that will no doubt be discussed for many years to come and is still one of the top issues that people talk to me about when they see me out and about.
To mention a couple of other events I enjoyed taking part in the Foulness Bike Ride, the annual Whitebait Festival and Shoebury Fair. I have had a great 2016 and I’m looking forward to 2017 I would like to thank everyone that has invited me to their events throughout the year. As ever, if you have any issues or concerns that you would like to raise with me please do not hesitate to contact me on email@example.com. I would like to wish all readers a Happy and Healthy New Year.
19 December 2016
When you read this column, Christmas will be only a few days away. No doubt there will be presents under the tree, excited children eagerly anticipating Christmas morning and families and friends planning to get together. In my column last week I urged readers to contact me with nominations for my Christmas charity donation. I received an overwhelming number of nominations this year. There is no doubt, all charities that were nominated carry out fantastic work in the community. All of the nominated charities offer invaluable support to so many residents and it was fantastic to see how many people support, not just the national charities, but also locally based charities. However, there can only be one winner and this year's winning charity is Little Heroes ASD.
Little Heroes ASD is a support group for families of children that are diagnosed or are going through a diagnosis of ASD - Autism.
Little Heroes hold monthly meetings, organise activities to support the families and give them a chance for social interaction and opportunities with other likewise families. Events that they have organised include inflatable fun parties, Fun on the Fields, Little Heroes at Just Ride, a Sensory Santa's Grotto and soft play sessions.
In addition to the activities they organise, Little Heroes ASD offer support and advice via their parenting and professional connections network. Their aim is to work with families as soon as autism is discovered as a possibility. Families are always welcome to their monthly meetings no matter what the age is of their child/ren. If you would like further information please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I really enjoyed the Christmas Carol Concert last weekend at St Augustine’s Church and was only too pleased to do a reading during the service. The House of Commons has now risen for recess and I am looking forward to spending the next couple of weeks in the constituency. Before Christmas I have a few more visits and then I am looking forward to spending time with my wife and children. I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.
“Like me, when most people are asked to think of a Chartered Physiotherapist they will think about rehabilitation following an injury or accident, whether that be arms, legs, back or neck. However, although Steve Oakley of the Essex Dizziness and Balance Centre, Rochford is a qualified Chartered Physiotherapist and can treat patients with those orthopaedic needs, he specialises in dizziness and balance disorders.
So, when I met Steve and Faye recently at their clinic in Rochford I was intrigued to learn how you can treat conditions such as Labyrinthitis, Neuronitis, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo and Menieres Disease with Physiotherapy.
I was fascinated to see how they diagnosed and treated these conditions, using state of the art equipment and very specialist Physiotherapy. Treatment can lead to total cures of some of these conditions which, up until their first consultation with Steve, have seen the patient leading a life plagued with misery and discomfort.
So, if you know of anyone that suffers from any of these conditions I would strongly suggest you make an appointment to see Steve. You will have an initial consultation and will be given an assessment then a personal treatment plan which hopefully will see you rid of the condition, that for some, leaves them housebound. You can contact the Clinic on 01702 870947 or 07742 975871. Email: email@example.com. Web: www.vestibular-rehab-essex.co.uk.
From the clinic to the classroom! I had a fantastic visit to Bournemouth Park Primary last week where I spoke to the children in years 3 to 6 about the role of an MP, what I do in Parliament, in the constituency and also what I did when I was a Minister. As the children came into the assembly hall, dressed in pyjamas for Children In Need, I thought it would be tough to keep their attention on politics but each and every one of them was fascinated and wanted to know lots about life as an MP and a Minister. I answered lots of questions and they were so well behaved. It is refreshing seeing children at such a young age enthused by politics and I would like to thank all the pupils and staff for making me feel so welcome.”
On Friday I visited a business in Rochford called IX Camera. I was fascinated to learn about the company’s history and all about their products. IX camera was founded by a team of engineers who had previously worked at Olympus Keymed. IX camera specialise in high speed cameras, in other words slow motion cameras. After I had been given an overview of the history of the company and the products I met the team when they discussed each of the roles that the team have in producing state of the art cameras. I have seen slow motion photography on the television being used during programmes or adverts but I hadn’t seen one up close! The team demonstrated the camera for me and then played back the images. It was incredible to see the detail that an ordinary camera would miss. I am always fascinated by the businesses that are located right here in the constituency, and this was no exception. IX Camera are leading the way globally in high speed cameras and next time you see slow motion photography on the TV the camera used, more than likely, will have been designed in Rochford!
After my visit to IX Camera I went to Southend Central train station and met Julian Drury, Managing Director of C2C where the new trains that are soon to be in operation were being showcased. The new trains will be rolled out across the line from Shoeburyness to Fenchurch Street. Amongst others, Cllr John Lamb, Leader of Southend Borough Council and Dawn Jeakings of The Royals were also in attendance. Like me, I know that all passengers will be looking forward to the new trains being in operation along the route.
Finally, I would like to suggest a date for your diary to celebrate Small Business Saturday. This year Small Business Saturday is taking place on 3rd December. Southend Council is offering free parking in all of their carparks across the town so please try and support the small businesses and perhaps get some Christmas shopping!
My Friday morning started off with a visit to a business on Shoebury Garrison, Wetsuit Outlet. Wetsuit Outlet started trading around fourteen years ago selling their products from a local yacht club. From there they moved to a unit at the Seedbed Centre in Shoebury and are now trading from the Garrison. They are the biggest wetsuit outlet in Europe and are hugely successful in their field. It was great to meet some of the team, find out more about their business and talk about their plans for the future. A fantastic success story celebrating local businesses and also a success story for the Seedbed Centre. For those that may not know, the Seedbed Centre is a purpose built development with fully serviced business units. It is a great facility that supports business start ups. Not only do they support new businesses they also support established businesses as they grow. If you are interested in the Seedbed Centre then visit www.seed-bed.co.uk
After my visit at the Wetsuit Outlet I headed over to meet Chief Superintend Paul Wells and Chief Inspector Scott Cannon of Essex Police at Southend Police Station. Both Paul and Scott are relatively new in post and we discussed a number of issues including the challenges currently being faced in Southend. I would like to wish both Paul and Scott well in their new roles and I look forward to working alongside them.
From the police station I headed to my constituency offices and had a meeting with Ian Stidston Accountable Officer and Trish D’Orsi, Chief Nurse of Rochford and Castlepoint Clinical Commissioning Group. We discussed primary care, the Essex Success Regime and also the current issue of accident and emergency care.
My final meeting for the day was my surgery where I met a number of constituents and discussed a variety of issues both local and national.
If you have any issues that you want to raise with me, an event you would like me to attend or a new business you would like me to visit please email me firstname.lastname@example.org or call my offices on 01702 616 135
With the leaves falling off the trees, the clocks having gone back and the nights drawing in, autumn is well under way. So, now that winter is just around the corner, minds turn to Christmas and all things festive, and also the dreaded winter flu! To that end, it was timely that last week in Parliament I had my flu vaccination. I know that local clinical commissioning groups are urging people in ‘at risk’ groups to have their flu vaccination.
For people who have long term health complications, who are aged over 65, young children or pregnant women they can have the flu vaccination for free. For some, the vaccination will be the flu jab and for others it will be a nasal spray.
If you want to see if you should have a vaccination then either speak to your GP, pharmacist, midwife or visit nhs.uk/staywell for more information.
As I said, our minds will start thinking about Christmas - presents under the tree for family and friends. Unfortunately, not everyone will be fortunate enough to wake up on Christmas morning to a full stocking at the end of the bed, or lots of gifts under the tree. I was delighted to learn that Southend Christmas Toy Drive is back! Last year over 1,000 gifts were donated ensuring that Southend’s vulnerable children received a gift at Christmas. I will be supporting this fantastic initiative again this year. If you are able to donate toys, selection packs, toiletry sets, vouchers for days out or pens and pencils please donate them to Southend Council who will then deliver them to children’s centres, food banks and children’s parties that are run by local charities in the run up to Christmas,
It is so easy to donate a toy or gift. Donations can be left at the reception at the Civic Centre and there is no appointment necessary, you can just turn up and leave your donation at the reception counter. So, if you are able to drop of a donation I know it will be genuinely appreciated.
As ever, if you want to get in touch with me, please email me email@example.com
Now and again organisations invite constituents up to the House of Commons as a way of securing a meeting between the national organisations and local MPs. I tend to prefer to meet people in the constituency where I can actually see the organisations themselves. Last week was an exception and I met two really interesting characters who live in Housing Association housing in Southend. I was able to entertain a very “with it” 97 year old. Age had honed his intellectual skills rather than diminished them. We enjoyed tea and scones in the Pugin Room, half way between the Commons and the Lords. This room is a combination of the green of the House of Commons and the Red of the Lords. I always upset people by not having cream – I do not like it. It is not a dietary thing. Devon and Cornwall MPs argue about what you should put on first, cream or jam? Not one of the biggest issues we should be debating! I think I will stick to implementing Brexit, growing the economy and supporting constituent cases.
I am currently trying to create order in the chaos of my email account. 50 years ago MP’s may get a dozen constituency letters a week if that. We now get thousands of emails per week with hundreds requiring a reply. Some this week included asylum seekers in France, and the very specific request to detail “what is the UK government doing to help women with breast cancer in Palestine”. It is certainly a varied job.
This week over 100 all party meetings are taking place in the House of Commons – you have to pick the issues you feel you can make a difference on. Last week I attended the Parliamentary Friends of Grammar Schools. The PM made a great speech and Sir David Amess and I chatted with one of the local Heads. I am proud to support our local Grammar schools but we need to do more to help them support the less well off, rather than re-enforcing middle class privilege.
Banks, 18 buses and a meeting with the Leader of Rochford District Council. That was one of my constituency days last week. Although perhaps it is worth me clarifying I didn’t travel on all 18 buses but I will come onto that!
My first visit was to the TSB branch situated on Southend High Street. During this visit we spoke about the journey that TSB have been on over recent years. We discussed the work they are doing supporting vulnerable members of the community who may be at risk of financial abuse, the work they are doing with
young people helping them learn how to budget and financial planning and also the schemes available for potential staff who wish to pursue a career in banking. What struck me was the ethos that the team had, they were very customer focused and maintain the over the counter style of banking and customers have access to the Branch Manager and can call him if they have any concerns or queries about their account.
Turning to the 18 buses I mentioned, I went to the launch of the new buses that have been added to Arriva fleet that will be on the number 1 route that goes between Shoeburyness, Southend and Rayleigh. When I arrived at the depot in Short Street I saw the new buses and they really are fantastic. They have USB charging points, free 4G wifi, heating and are environmentally friendly. I know that passengers will benefit from the £3.8 million investment Arriva have made into these new buses and I look forward to seeing them out serving local residents.
Finally I met with Cllr Terry Cutmore, Leader of Rochford District Council at my constituency offices. Terry and I often bump into each other in the constituency whether we are at the same events or meetings however on those occasions we don’t have the opportunity to sit down and catch up so this meeting was an opportunity catch up on all things Rochford!
As ever, if you have any issue you would like to discus with me please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite the sun still shining as I write this column, we are now officially in Autumn and the only indication I have seen so far are the leaves starting to fall from the trees.
A couple of weekends ago I was feeling particularly sporty and I took part in two bike events in one weekend! On the Saturday my son and I participated in the Just Ride Southend event held at Garons. Just Ride Southend run regular drop-in inclusive cycling sessions for people of all ages and abilities. They also have a selection of bikes that have been adapted for a variety of disabilities and health conditions. These sessions are held during the week and on weekends too, for more information visit www.justridesouthend.com
The following day I took part in the Foulness Bike Ride. I have done this event a number of times over the years and each time I really enjoy visiting the island and meeting residents who have never been on the island before. There are lots of local residents raising money for so many worthwhile causes and, at the same time, seeing a location that, unless you are a resident or employee there, would otherwise not have the opportunity of exploring.
The Foulness Island Bike Ride is always extremely popular and it is great seeing so many children enjoying the event too, the weather was glorious and the day was a huge success. Well done to the Thorpe Bay Rotary Club for another fantastic event.
I recently popped down to Stock Road Recycling Centre and whilst I was there I was given a leaflet promoting a live webcam that is in operation which helps residents decide when to visit the site as it will show you if there is a queue or not along Stock Road
So, before you head off I suggest you visit www.veolia.co.uk/southend/hwrcs and by doing so, you may avoid queuing.
As ever, if there are any issues that you would like to discuss with me, then please email me at email@example.com or telephone 01702 616 135
“ This week in Parliament I met with Jamie Burles, Managing Director of Abellio Greater Anglia. Abellio are the current operators of the Southend Victoria to Liverpool Street line. Last month they were awarded a new nine year franchise which will see them operate the line until October 2025.
For those residents, visitors and tourists who use this line, I know that you will be delighted to learn that as a result of the new contract, Abellio are now in a position to invest, not only in train stations but there will also be significant investment into the rolling stock that operates on the line.
The first phase of this investment will see a third of the current rolling stock being totally refurbished. These works include furnishing those trains with new carpets, new seating, wi-fi, air conditioning and plug sockets. The remaining stock two thirds of the existing stock will benefit from a refresh whilst Abellio await delivery of 1,043 brand new carriages that will operate on the line.
The brand new trains, which will start being phased in on the line during 2019, will boast air conditioning, wi-fi, plug sockets and, for the winter months, improved heating. Not only are the trains improving, but there will also be additional services added to the off peak timetable (up to 4 trains an hour by the end of 2020), increased seat capacity, station improvements, the introduction of smart cards and automatic refunds for season ticket holders for service delays.
This is absolutely fantastic news for everyone who travels on the line and is much needed investment into this service. I was delighted to see how passionate Jamie was about providing all those who use the line with a first class travelling experience. Not only is he committed to improving the passenger experience when on board the train, he is also passionate about ensuring that services run more punctually more consistently. I am delighted to be able to share this news with you and I am really excited about seeing these improvements to the line which will be welcomed by all passengers.”
“As the summer now closes and the autumn begins, I am looking forward to Parliament returning after the summer recess. Looking back, I’ve enjoyed this summer with my family after a much needed break after the busy referendum period.
As I return to my duties in Westminster I have a range of meetings lined up. I’ve been hard at work over the summer as a local MP, dealing with plenty of casework, as have many of my parliamentary colleagues and I look forward to catching up with them.
This summer has largely been a successful one for Southend traders and local businesses and it’s great to see the area do well. It’s been fantastic to see the seafront packed nearly every day of the summer season, with big crowds on the beach and at Adventure Island all of which help our local economy here in Southend.
Southend Airport has also been busy with plenty of people from around Essex, myself included, using it to fly abroad. The airport is a great asset for the area and I encourage everyone to give it a try on your next holiday.
I’d also like to congratulate everyone who picked up their GCSE results last week. Students across Southend achieved some amazing results. I remember how nervous I was collecting my results so I can sympathise. On top of some of the area’s top A-Level results, I wish all students luck with their next steps whether that is A-Levels, apprenticeships or University.
In addition to my busy duties, this Sunday I will be taking part in the Foulness Bike Ride. I encourage everyone to come and see this great event, which offers a rare look into the island but also to come to support many local charities in the area. Southend has a great tradition of hosting charitable events and occasions and across the area thousands have been raised for some great causes.
As ever, if there are any issues you would like to discuss with me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone my office on 01702 616 135”
As the summer now closes and the autumn begins, I am looking forward to the Parliament rising after a summer recess. Looking back, I’ve enjoyed this summer with my family after a much needed break after the busy referendum period.
As I return to my duties in Westminster I have a range of meetings lined up. I’ve been hard at work over the summer as a local MP, dealing with plenty of casework, as have many of my parliamentary colleagues and I look forward to catching up with them.
This summer has largely been a successful one for Southend traders and local businesses and it’s great to see the area do well. It’s been fantastic to see the seafront packed nearly every day of the summer season, with big crowds on the beach and at Adventure Island all of which help our local economy here in Southend.
Southend Airport has also been busy with plenty of people from around Essex, myself included, using it to fly abroad. The airport is a great asset for the area and I encourage everyone to give it a try on your next holiday.
I’d also like to congratulate everyone who picked up their GCSE results last week. Students across Southend achieved some amazing results. I remember how nervous I was collecting my results so I can sympathise. On top of some of the area’s top A-Level results, I wish all students luck with their next steps whether that is A-Levels, apprenticeships or University.
In addition to my busy duties, this Sunday I will be taking part in the Foulness Bike Ride. I encourage everyone to come and see this great event, which offers a rare look into the island but also to come to support many local charities in the area. Southend has a great tradition of hosting charitable events and occasions and across the area thousands have been raised for some great causes.
As ever, if there are any issues you would like to discuss with me, please email me at email@example.com or telephone my office on 01702 616 135
I hope everyone enjoyed the warmer weather last week after an up and down summer!
We’re over half way through August now and many people are now returning from their holidays before work starts again. This summer has certainly been a great one for Southend. Not only have we hosted the London to Southend bike ride and a successful carnival, we’ve also had a new lagoon installed and a record number of visitors to the seaside.
I have enjoyed the summer break with my family and I look forward to going back to Parliament in September.
When Parliament finishes the summer recess, we will have a busy autumn ahead. After the UK’s referendum result and the arrival of a new Prime Minister, there will surely be a lot of legislation that needs to be debated and passed.
However, throughout the summer I’ve still been hard at work as the Member of Parliament for Rochford and Southend and there’s been lots to do.
I’m pleased to announce that the South East Local Economic Partnership have launched a bid to receive funds from the Government under the Local Growth Fund. These projects will improve Southend and bring economic benefits.
Under the plans, there is further development of the business park at Southend Airport which hopes to attract more and a wider range of businesses. Secondly, the ‘Better Queensway’ project will see a vital regeneration of the Queensway estate and surrounding shops. Finally, the plan contains a “Connect” scheme which will provide more tourism and job creation opportunities in Southend and Cumbria.
I’m pleased to say that I have written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, offering my support for these plans. These plans will provide investment into Southend and will build on the area’s ability to be a thriving seaside town.
As ever, if there are any issues that you would like to discuss with me you can do so by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 01702 616 135.
27th June 2016
“I would like to thank all of those constituents of Rochford and Southend East who voted for an Independent Britain. Across Rochford 66% of residents voted to leave the European Union and across Southend 58% voted to leave. Nationally over 72% of people voted in this referendum, much higher than in a general election, this demonstrates the strength of feeling.
The election campaign locally was well managed by Lucy Paton-Brown and regionally by James Moyies. They deserve praise for the local result, they and their team of volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure that the right result was achieved.
Now the work begins. We now look to take back control of our powers and work together to ensure that the we put the great back in Great Britain.
It is with sadness that David Cameron has made the decision to step down as Prime Minister. He has made a huge difference to our country and I was one of the 83 MPs that wrote asking him to stay on. That said, I do understand that this would have been difficult and I respect his decision to step aside and allow a new leader to move our country forward with negotiating our exit plans from the European Union.
We mustn’t forget that David Cameron pulled together a coalition government, reduced the budget deficit which was the biggest budget deficit in peacetime history, fought for helping global poverty and gave us equal marriage. He also, through the Conservative Government, gave us the referendum. These are his legacies.
I also need to thank my predecessor Sir Teddy Taylor who has given up most of his life to the fight against the European Union. He should be rightly proud of his efforts and the constituency proud to have elected him so many times to do this work.
We must now come together as a country, outside the European Union. We have a bright future ahead, one where we work together to achieve our potential, we will control our borders, regain our sovereignty and develop our trade deals globally, not just within the EU. I am confident this was the right decision and I am looking forward to our future.”
20th June 2016
“Last week I attended the 1st birthday celebrations of the Hive in Southend. It was a great night, and Southend can be proud that there is yet another successful local business supporting other local businesses.
The Hive is a dedicated business hub for small businesses, whether you are just starting out or are looking for new office accommodation. The Hive supports businesses to grow. They let office space which ranges from single desks through to larger self-contained offices. They also have the ability to hire their meeting rooms, and not just to businesses based at the Hive. I have used the Hive for meetings and I encourage local groups to do the same.
We must continue to back centres like the Hive if we want to continue to see investment and jobs created locally.
I also visited Beacon House, a centre for Adults with Learning Disabilities for the National Care Home Open Day. I enjoyed talking to carers and residents who live at Beacon House, finding out about the fantastic work they.
During the morning I spoke to residents about day trips they have had, places they have been and their holiday that they are going on in September. I was shown photographs of some of their day trips that they had enjoyed and birthday celebrations including a trip to the pub for one of the residents who thoroughly enjoyed his trip to the Cock Inn and his pint on his birthday!
There was a great atmosphere, the staff and residents were friends. They enjoyed spending time together, sharing experiences, fulfilling dreams and supporting the residents to achieve their dreams and goals, whatever they may be.
Whilst I was there we also spoke about the EU referendum which is taking place this Thursday, 23rd June. There have been ‘Easy to Read’ guides produced for voters with learning difficulties. I was asked how I would be voting and why I had come to that decision. I said that I would be voting to leave the European Union. I reminded everyone there, and I remind you now reading this column, that is so important to vote in this once in a generation referendum so don’t forget to vote on Thursday 23rd June.”
6th June 2016
I have written before about the vast variety of issues that I receive letters and emails about each and every day, hundreds of emails and letters each week. I also have written about the variety of organisations, businesses and charities I visit as a Member of Parliament. A number of these organisations, businesses and charities that I have visited support vulnerable residents within our communities as well as working with members of our communities that may require additional support or services to make their lives easier. Local charities carry out invaluable work within our communities as of course do national charities.
I recently received a letter from the Royal National Institute Of Blind People letting me know about a new scheme they have launched, together with Royal Mail, that will help blind and partially sighted residents, not just here locally but nationally. The new Transcription Scheme is designed to help the 1.9 million people living in the UK with sight loss. The service is confidential and free of charge, funded by Royal Mail and it enables MP’s across the country to write and reply to constituents using Braille or audio letters.
I have previously used APART Consultancy, a company based in Rochford run by Joe and Lyn Paton, both visually impaired, to record audio copies of annual reports I have produced and delivered to residents. This ensured that visually impaired and blind residents were able to receive a copy of my report that they could access.
This new service will benefit those constituents who do not have access to technology that enables them to read correspondence that has been sent to them or who prefer to have their letters in Braille or audio.
This initiative will transcribe Braille and audio letters from constituents to MPs into print and the subsequent replies from their MP will be transcribed back into the constituent’s preferred reading format.
If you know of anyone that would benefit from this service then please do get them to get in touch with me on 01702 616 135 and I can give them more information about this scheme.
23rd May 2016
Last week I met with the BBC to record an interview on the topic of the European Union Referendum. We met at one of the most iconic places in Southend, the longest pleasure pier in the world, Southend Pier. We boarded the train to the end of the pier and as I was walking along the platform I bumped into some of the RNLI volunteers who were travelling to the shop at the end of the pier complete with some supplies for the shop ready for the visitors that will be going to the shop over the next few days.
The reporter hadn’t been to the end of the pier before and really was taken with the quaint train as we made the journey along the pier. The water was still and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful day, almost postcard perfect, and as the train made its way along the track the reporter was admiring the view and in that moment, could appreciate why so many thousands of people come to visit Southend.
After the interview we took a stroll around the pier and I pointed out the café where Jamie and Jimmy is filmed and the RNLI shop which by now was fully stocked with the goods that made the journey with us earlier! The reporter promised he would pop in to buy a souvenir!
With my interview completed I was making my way back to the shore when I saw the new Southend Pier Crazy Golf ready to be enjoyed by visitors, it looked such good fun. I saw the 12-hole course with the centre piece being Olga the Octopus. Unfortunately it wasn’t open so I made a note that I needed to return with my children so they too can enjoy it.
Then later in the week I found out that a new post box will be appearing at the end of the pier complete with its very own Southend Pier frank mark. In addition to the new post box, there will also be pop up beach huts that will be providing music, art and entertainment.
As I walked back along the pier I was already looking forward to coming back with the children and I will remember to post a letter!
16th May 2016
For regular readers of my column you will recall that I have previously written about tours that are available for UK residents of both the House of Commons and Big Ben. I also wrote inviting schools and community groups to come to Parliament to have guided tours. UK residents who are blind or partially sighted can arrange a fully guided tactile tour of the Houses of Parliament.
This tour is interactive enabling the visitor to develop a real sense of the building and its history as they will be able to touch various specially made models and other objects within the building.
The tour includes visiting Westminster Hall, Central Lobby, the Lords Chamber in the House of Lords and the Commons Chamber in the House of Commons.
Tactile tours are offered free of charge and they are operating throughout the year, although typically are held late on Friday afternoon and last up to two hours.
The next tactile tour will be held on 17 June 2016 and starts at 5pm and if you know of anyone that is blind or partially sighted who would like to visit Parliament to experience a tactile tour then please ask them to contact my office.
Turning away from parliamentary tours, as most of you will know, I hold regular out and about surgeries at various locations in the constituency. The next surgery I am hosting is focusing on the forthcoming European Referendum.
This referendum is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us all to decide whether the United Kingdom remains in the European Union. Whilst I have been out speaking to residents, a large number of people still have questions that they would like to ask before deciding how they will vote. I would like to give as many residents as possible the opportunity to ask any questions they may have that will assist them in making this all important decision.
The surgery is being held on Friday 20th May 2016. Appointments are first come first served. To book an appointment please contact my office on 01702 616 135 or via email email@example.com
26th April 2016
With life being so fast paced these days for all of us I know from experience that we juggle the demands of a job and family life. We look at ways to make life as easy as possible, whether that is online shopping, ordering weekly shopping with the ‘click and collect’ system available at some supermarkets or fitting in the chores and jobs in between the school run and work.
As a consequence, I for one try and do a lot of jobs as conveniently as I can. For some that is going once a week to a large supermarket where you can not only do your shopping but perhaps can visit the Post Office, drop off the dry cleaning and other jobs all in one place.
Wherever possible though I do try to shop locally to support local businesses and to encourage others to shop locally. I always try to support, not just new business ventures, but also those businesses that have been trading for many years that are reliant on local custom to ensure they continue to trade.
I have written before about supporting local farmers markets as they too are a platform for supporting our local farmers, and suppliers of local produce.
That brings me to my visit to a local cobbler in Rochford called Snobs. I popped in to have some shoes repaired and I met Colin Bowers who has been trading for over 25 years. Snobs is based in West Street in Rochford just off of Rochford Square. As I said, I went in to have some shoes re-soled and the service was fantastic. Great customer service and Colin was really friendly and not only did I have great customer service but he offers a really fast service where shoes can be repaired and collected the same day or while you wait.
So, if you need to have your shoes repaired or a key cut then look no further than Snobs in Rochford. Great customer service, value for money, quick repairs – what more could you ask for!
4th May 2016
Voters across Rochford and Southend will have their say this week and use their democratic voice for the local and Police Crime Commissioner elections
On Thursday, voters across the United Kingdom, will be choosing their local councillors and their Police and Crime Commissioners. Frequently on the door step I find that residents hold strong views on issues affecting their local communities, which as a local constituency MP I can understand. This is your opportunity to decide who is elected as the Essex Police Crime Commissioner and who you would like to see in the council chamber as your local councillors.
May 5th is your chance to elect your councillors who can play a vital role in local communities.
Councillors make decisions on education and lifelong learning, social services and health, housing and regeneration, waste collection, recycling, roads and street lighting, arts, sports and culture, community safety and crime reduction, environment, planning and regulation, tackling disadvantage and building strong, stable communities, taxing and spending and transport.
Alongside that, residents across Essex will be voting to elect the Police and Crime Commissioner. The responsibilities of the Police Crime Commissioner are essentially to ensure effective and efficient policing across the county. This is only the second time that Police Crime Commissioners have been elected as this post was created in 2012.
As a Member of Parliament I meet constituents at surgeries and I assist those who either send me a letter, call my office or who email me and I try and assist them with their issues. But at the local elections, voters have to chance to change the way their local communities are run and managed, meaning it is very important to vote to have a say in your local democracy.
I encourage everyone to come out and vote on Thursday, these elections can have a huge impact on everyday life and the future of local communities.
I’m sure you’ve already have plenty of leaflets from all the candidates, but for an overview of each candidate and their views for the Police and Crime Commissioner election please visit https://www.choosemypcc.org.uk/area/essex
People say to me why should I bother participating in a consultation, the decision has already been made? Why should I bother answering that questionnaire they don’t care about my view? Or why should I sign that petition, nothing is going to change? Each and every time I am asked this question I say you should respond to the consultation because if you don’t how can your views be taken into consideration, if you don’t complete the questionnaire how will the organisation know how you feel and if you don’t sign the petition how will you if know your involvement could have made a difference. Over the last ten years there have been a number of campaigns that I have been involved in or led, all of which have involved members of the community working together. Unfortunately, the campaigns haven’t always seen the outcome that we have all strived for but there have been far more occasions that have seen positive outcomes.
Take for instance the campaign that saved Sutton Road Post Office from closure, or the more recent campaign to have a post box installed on the Shoebury Garrison.
When a number of local sorting offices faced closure I campaigned against this. Unfortunately one sorting office was closed but a local solution was secured for residents of Great Wakering. The work carried out at the sorting office was relocated to Short Street but undelivered mail items were not taken back to Short Street for collection as was proposed but were left at the local Post Office for residents to collect when they were able to.
Another success was the Southend Driving Test Centre, now with this particular campaign we didn’t see success initially, the test centre was closed. But we revisited the campaign when an opportunity presented itself for Southend to be placed on an initiative that saw driving tests being carried out within community venues. Together local residents, learner drivers, councillors and driving instructors worked together to secure a new centre operating from The Tickfield Centre Southend. If we work together we can make a difference for our community.
When I have knocked on doors over the years the issues that are discussed with me vary. Sometimes they are locally focused, other times they can be about a personal issue or problem or they can be issues that affect the nation. One issue that I know really does frustrate people are potholes. It’s a constant visual reminder that some parts of our area need attention. Potholes, and the need to repair them, is often raised with me not just on the doorstep but out and about and constituents raise this issue with me via email or letter.
Not only do local residents raise this issue but councillors do too. They ask what more can be done by the Government to address the issue of potholes.
When I am travelling around the constituency, on the school run with the children or popping to the shops I do understand the frustration of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians as potholes are not just an inconvenience but can cause accidents.
I was delighted to hear that the government is giving local funds for pothole repairs. Southend Borough Council will receive £65,000 for 1,226 potholes and Essex County Council, which includes Rochford, will receive £1,500,000 for 28,302 potholes and these funds that have been allocated will be welcome news to many.
I have written about my out and about surgeries many times which are held across the constituency. These are an ideal opportunity for residents to come along and have a chat with me in an informal setting. If you want to raise an issue with me including pot hole repairs then why not come to my next out and about surgery which is being held at Waitrose on 22nd April 2016 at 2pm. There is no appointment necessary.
Next Sunday I will be attending the St George’s day service and parade at St John’s Church. Included within the line-up will be, members of the Armed Services, cadets and members of the emergency services. If you want to come along and see the parade then head over to the Odeon Cinema at 10am. For further information about the parade and service visit www.southend.gov.uk
Before I started my constituency day on Friday I popped into The Beehive Café in Rochford and had a cup of coffee. This little tea rooms are so quaint and the smell of the cooked breakfasts filled the air, I didn’t have the time to have a breakfast but I can’t wait to head back, perhaps with the children to enjoy one! After my coffee I headed to the Square where I hosted an Out and About surgery. This surgery was aimed at discussing crime focused issues. It was an opportunity for local residents to raise any issues they had but I was particularly keen to hear about issues regarding law and order. A number of local residents attended the surgery and I was also able to take the opportunity to speak to local businesses and residents in Rochford Square afterwards. One of the most useful ways of understanding local issues is by having informal chats with local residents and business owners. Through informal conversation I am able to get a much greater understanding of the problems within a local area, the issues residents and businesses face and also have an understanding of what is working for residents and the community. I was delighted to have been joined by Roger Hirst Police Crime Commissioner candidate.
After the surgery I headed over to lunch with Mayor of Southend at Southend Airport. The lunch was being held to raise money for Mayor’s charity. It has become customary for the Mayor to raise money for local charities. Cllr Andrew Moring is the current Mayor of Southend and throughout his time as Mayor he is raising money two local charities, Southend Samaritans and Southend Community Fund.
The Samaritans provide a drop in service and an around the clock helpline for people when they need to talk to someone without interruption or judgement. For some, the Samaritans are the only place they can turn to without fear of repercussions. For others who might worry about burdening friends or family, they offer a safe place to turn. The Southend Branch also relies solely on fundraising through the local community, mainly through their Charity Shop in Hamlet Court Road so support is important.
The Southend Fund is an umbrella charity fund which provides grants exclusively to Southend charities who present suitable bids for funding. If you would like to donate to either of these fantastic charities visit http://www.mayorscharityfund.com.
21st March 2016
After Prime Minister’s Questions this week I was pleased to be able to spend time with staff from Rochford District Council who had come to Parliament as part of their Leadership Training Programme. I really enjoyed meeting with all the team during their workshop and I hope they too enjoyed the day. Away from Parliament I was looking forward to an action packed constituency day on Friday. The first visit of the day was to Cecil Jones Academy. I met with Bev Williams, Executive Principal, Martin Ovenden, Senior Vice Principle and Governor Robin Marcus. I had a tour of the school and we discussed the plans for the academy. After my visit at Cecil Jones I headed to my constituency offices where I met with Daniel Garrod and Dale Spiby of Southend United Educational Trust. I have previously written about the excellent work in the community that the Trust carries out. The work that they do in the community links back to their objective which is “Changing lives through football”. I was excited to have an update on the programmes they carry out in the community and I learnt that there are programmes they run that I was unaware of. I am looking forward to learning more about the Senior Shrimpers programme they run and hope to visit them over the coming months. I was then interviewed by a student who is studying journalism at South East Essex College. He was interviewing me as part of his course and asked me a range of questions which will be included within a website he is producing following the interview.
After the interview I headed over to Rayleigh Glass who are based at The Hive Enterprise Centre which is located in the old library in Victoria Avenue. I was able to have a look around The Hive as well as meet a number of new businesses who are setting off on their new business ventures. The Hive have great facilities which are able to support new businesses as well as established companies. If you are a looking for office accommodation I strongly suggest you take a look at The Hive.
14th March 2016
This week is National Apprenticeship Week. Apprenticeship Week runs from 14th – 18th March 2016 is an opportunity to celebrate apprenticeships and the benefit that they bring to both employers and the apprentices. Apprenticeships offer the apprentice the ability to learn new skills and earn a living at the same time.
Just over ten years ago the first apprentice I met in Southend was studying at Prospects College, they were an apprentice bricklayer and really spoke highly of the benefits of an apprenticeship. I remember at that time there was a discussion about the sectors that offered apprenticeships. It was recognised that construction and bricklaying were the most commonly known and utilised apprenticeships.
Over a decade later, towards the end of last year, I was having a meeting with the Principle of Southend Adult Community College, Sue Hasty and she introduced me to her Personal Assistant, an apprentice who was due to complete her apprenticeship shortly. It was then that I started looking at other local companies that offer apprenticeships and the list was extensive! You may be surprised to learn that they are currently available in over 1400 job roles which cover more than 170 industries including law, banking, local authorities, fashion and transport.
Over recent years apprenticeships have increased in popularity with employers realising the benefits that having an apprentice can bring to an organisation. Local employers have told me that having an apprentice has helped their businesses improve service, develop their business and also improve productivity. Whilst many people can be forgiven for thinking it is only larger organisations that would benefit from an apprentice, smaller businesses are able to benefit as well. Earlier this year I met with local company Swiftclean and they told me about staff that have joined the team through an apprenticeship and stay within the company and benefit from career progression within the organisation.
Local businesses and future apprentices will be delighted to know that the Government is committed to achieving three million high quality apprenticeship starts by 2020. If you are interested in apprenticeships, whether that is as an employer or apprentice please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org
7th March 2016
This week I wanted to write about English Tourism Week which runs from 5th March 2016 – 13th March 2016. It was as I sat down to write about tourism within Rochford and Southend that I realised just how much there is to offer tourists and of course local residents. We may be forgiven for forgetting quite how much we have available right here on our doorstep. Of course we can’t forget about the fantastic airport we have at our disposal, with the expansion of the airport we are able to escape to sunnier climates or for winter fun. Within minutes of leaving our front door we are at the airport ready to depart on our holiday. However, not only does that benefit us on outbound destinations, it is also attracts tourists to come and enjoy everything we have available here.
Right here in Rochford and Southend there is something for everyone. As well as those attractions we all know and love including the seafront and the pier there is also 7 miles of seafront, crazy golf, Adventure Island, Sealife Centre, Rolla City, water sports including kite surfing and bowling at the Kursaal. You can also hire a bicycle and see all there is to offer on two wheels, cycling on the cycle paths along the seafront or head out for a country ride into Wakering and having a nice pub lunch! For those that fancy a spot of swimming you can swim at Garons which of course was used by Team GB for their training during the 2012 Olympics. If you fancy a spot of culture then we have two great theatres, or if you wanted to relax and stroll around the park then where better than one of the parks we have here in Southend or head over to Barling Wildlife Park. For those that enjoy the odd recreational bet we have casinos with stunning views over the estuary and Bingo! There is so much more to do than we may realise, our communities offer the opportunity for tourists to have a truly memorable holiday or mini break – but don’t just let tourists take advantage enjoy it yourselves!
29th February 2016
I often write about the great work carried out within our communities by different organisations, charities and volunteers who are all working together to benefit the local community and the local residents. However, it isn’t just organisations and charities that support communities, the community also pulls together for the benefit of all within it.
Back in early 2014 Councillor Roger Hadley and I had been contacted by a number of local residents who wanted to see if a post box could be installed on the Shoebury Garrison. These requests were the catalyst that led to us setting up a petition and us speaking to local residents to gauge if there was wider support for the idea. We went door to door with a petition and it soon became apparent that there was the local support for the proposal and lots of residents questioned why a post box hadn’t been installed earlier. I sent the petition, together with a request for the post box, to Moya Greene, Chief Executive of Royal Mail. Initially the response we received was not as we had hoped and the request was declined. I then wrote back to Moya Greene requesting a review of the decision. After campaigning for a year I was delighted to be informed last week that the hard work has paid off and the post box is being installed this week.
The post box is going to be sited next to Sainsbury’s Local on the Garrison and installation is starting on the 1st March 2016 and will be operational a few days later.
This is fantastic news, not just for residents of the Garrison, but also local communities. It goes to show how effective community engagement really is and when the community pulls together things can be achieved.
15th February 2016
I always find it interesting watching people’s reactions when they see a group of teenagers out and about. A group of teenagers will be approached with caution, people take steps to try and avoid the group, some people may walk faster as they pass the group or at extreme may even cross the road to avoid a possible conflict or confrontation. It is not often I have experienced that behaviour displayed towards me. That is until recently! Most people recognise me when I am wearing a suit but fewer people will recognise me if I am wearing casual clothes. I see people do a double take if they see me in casual clothing, they may recognise me but can’t place me! Then once they realise it is me minus a suit they smile, wave and have a chat. However, the same can’t be said when I wear a hoodie. I have worn a hoodie a few times recently when I have been out and about with my children or if I am just popping out running an errand. I have seen people cross the road from me, school mums will look at me disapprovingly and there seems an assumption that there will be trouble because I am wearing a hoodie. This goes back to seeing teenagers in hoodies and that expectation of trouble. We must see past our preconceptions and expectations of an individual’s behaviour based on clothing. I have seen some shops displaying signs where they deter customers from wearing hoodies and once again that reinforces the negative conations of a hooded jumper. Like others I have been wearing hoodies because they are comfortable. Some people wear them as part of a sporting outfit and others wear them because they are warm but can be undone or removed easily. These haven’t been worn as a garment to cause distress or to upset anyone yet that is exactly what happens when they are worn. We need to see past first impressions, see beyond the hoodie and see the person! #hugahoodie
8th February 2016
Last Sunday I went to St Augustine’s Church with my children to the Candlemass service. This mass really brought the community together. As well as lots of local residents there were also groups of local Cubs, Beavers, Scouts, Brownies, Rainbows and Guides. In addition to the service there was an aeroplane making competition, this competition saw entrants within each category competing against each other to make the best aeroplane. The groups were ages 0 -7, 7-17, 16 plus female and 16 plus male. Modesty means I can’t tell you who won the 16 plus male category!! This is another great example of the community coming together. Two hundred people together sharing fun and cake with no need for electronic devices. Which all members of the Duddridge household seem to be connected to most of the time! I would like to thank Jonathan and Judith and all at St Augustine’s Church for another fantastic event.
You may recall a column I wrote a while back in which I spoke about businesses that are located on industrial estates. Well as I sat down on Friday to open my briefcase, which had my iPad, paperwork and all my letters in it, that I had signed, I was most aggrieved to see the can of diet coke I had carried into the office had exploded in my briefcase! As I was cleaning up the mess my mind wandered to a company called Gadget Repair Solutions which is located in Rochford. Gadget Repair Solutions are a specialist ‘Out of Warranty’ repair and refurbishment company. They repair many devices including mobile phones, laptops, tablets and kindles. When I visited them I had a look around the workshop, saw them repair a damaged iPhone screen and met with some of the repair staff. This organisation, based in Rochford, repairs devices across the country. Thankfully my iPad was not irreparably damaged and didn’t need to take a visit to Gadget Repair Solutions. If you are not so lucky and your device needs repairing, take a look at this local company. For more information visit https://www.gadgetrepairsolutions.com/
1st February 2016
An issue that has been raised with me recently is the planned relocation of staff and services by HMRC from Alexander House to a regional centre in Stratford. I wanted to write and provide an update on my interventions following this announcement.
I received notification from HMRC in November last year that they plan to create a regional centre in Stratford and, as a result, Alexander House will be closing between 2019 and 2020.
Soon after I received this notification I wrote to David Gauke MP requesting a meeting to discuss this. I wanted to ascertain if there would be any job losses, how the transition from Alexander House to Stratford would be undertaken, what options were available to any staff that didn’t wish to relocate to Stratford and, if there were any job losses, what support would be available to those employees requiring alternative employment.
In addition to contacting the Minister I also wrote directly to Lin Homer, Chief Executive of HMRC raising my concerns and seeking further clarification on the impact on employees and exactly how many staff were affected. I also offered my help to support staff that may not wish to relocate and to assist with the organisation of a Jobsfair, very similar to the one I organised in conjunction with Lloyds and Southend Borough Council when Essex House was closed back in 2013.
Last month I met with David Gauke MP at the Treasury and we spoke about the proposed closure and I reiterated my concerns. I also extended my invitation of assistance with regards to the Jobsfair.
This is an issue that affects a significant number of local residents and I will do all I can to ensure that everyone is fully supported throughout this process. I want to do all I can to help those employees that do not wish to relocate to Stratford and that seek alternative employment or decide to take this opportunity to re-train in a different field of work. As ever, if you do require any assistance please do not hesitate to contact me via email@example.com
25th January 2016
Sports are a wonderful way for young people to socialise, get fit and channel their energies particularly when there are such a vast number of technological devices around now that weren’t available even 20 years ago, which seem to be taking up more and more of our children’s time. When most people think about sports, they most likely think of popular ones such as football, rugby, tennis and even swimming, but where young people are concerned, I would bet most people wouldn’t suggest motor racing. However, the next Jenson Button or Lewis Hamilton has to start somewhere and for Ross Connolly that’s exactly what he’s doing!
I recently received an email from Ross’ father Mark, asking for my help to get Ross some sponsorship. Ross is 14 years old, he’s a local Southend boy, attends Shoeburyness High School and is a very keen and talented young racing driver. Ross started racing at Brentwood Academy in May 2014 and by the spring of 2015 he finished the league runner-up and was awarded the Most Improved title. Having placed a total of 24 podiums in 2015, so far, Ross is going from strength to strength.
Ross is now getting ready for the new season to begin, whilst continuing to race at Brentwood. During this period Ross has won 3 Top Novice Awards at the Bayford Junior Subaru in the build up to the new season.
Ross has a strong ambition to become a professional driver but he needs some help. Ross is looking for sponsorship for new tyres and tools to help in his dream of becoming number 1 in the world and in return he will race with your company name and logo on his kart and advertise sponsorship on his facebook page and website. Ross can also arrange team-building days at the race track he uses and offer advertisement on the sidelines too. Not to mention, you could be a part of securing the next Formula 1 champion in Team GB!
18th January 2016
This week I wanted to write about c2c and the recent timetable changes. Like many c2c passengers, I had a number of concerns when I first saw the proposed timetable during the consultation last year. I wrote to both Julian Drury, Managing Director of c2c with my submission for the consultation, and also to Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport outlining my dissatisfaction.
In addition I subsequently met with Julian Drury and, once again, I echoed my concerns for the passengers travelling on the c2c line. I was disappointed that my concerns didn’t bring about any changes to the timetable before it was implemented in December last year. For your information, I was advised by c2c that during the consultation 2,239 passengers submitted a response regarding the new timetable and of that 2,239 passengers only 26% of responses were with relation to Southend journey times.
Following the numerous representations made and a petition started by a c2c passenger, I was advised by c2c that two extra fast trains would be added to the morning schedule. Despite that being a step in the right direction, I, and many other passengers, felt that these changes hadn’t gone far enough. A meeting took place at my offices in November with c2c and the passenger whom started the petition, during which more changes were requested. I received a letter after this meeting that outlined further changes to the timetable.
I have since written again to the Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin regarding the timetable and am currently awaiting a formal response. This matter remains firmly on my radar and despite more changes having been made to the timetable by c2c I am still receiving complaints from constituents about the service so there is clearly more that needs to be done.
I will continue to monitor this situation very closely and the matter remains a focus for me. I have made several representations on the situation going back to August 2014 and am trying to assist constituents in campaigning for further changes. If you would like further information or to see copies of the letters I have written then please visit my website www.jamesduddridge.com
11th January 2016
I have written this many times before, but one of things I love about my job is the diversity of organisations and people I meet when I am out in the constituency and this Friday was no exception.
My day started meeting with Sally Morris, Chief Executive of the South Essex Partnership Trust which was held at my constituency offices. During this meeting we spoke about a variety of issues including the Trusts most recent CQC assessment, service provision and the plans for the organisation over the next twelve months.
After my meeting with Sally I went over to see the Principle of Southend Adult Community College, Sue Hasty. This was my first meeting with Sue since she joined the college last Autumn. Sue has a number of key areas she would like to develop and it was great to hear how these plans will strengthen the college. Not only that, but her plans will see more local residents benefiting from the courses available at the college. Sue had also arranged for me to meet a group of students who are studying at the college. They asked me a variety of questions on national politics and areas they were interested in including cyber bullying and educational bursaries.
After my question and answer session at the college I headed straight over to local company Swift Clean who are based at Aviation Way. I visited them a few years ago and they invited me back to give me an update on how their business has developed and also to see how they have utilised funding which provided a new mezzanine floor for the administration team. These facilities are fantastic and provide a great working environment for the staff.
With no time to waste I headed over to meet with Glyn Jones, Chief Operating Officer at Southend Airport. The airport is a huge success story for our town and I always enjoying visiting the airport and seeing what plans there are to build on its success.
Until next time.
4th January 2016
Happy New Year!. I know I mentioned this is my last column but just a reminder, if you haven’t already, please don’t forget to recycle your Christmas cards. You can recycle your cards in either your household recycling or at Marks and Spencer stores. Marks and Spencer’s are working with The Woodland Trust recycling Christmas cards and planting a tree for every 1,000 cards collected in store.
For a number of years now I have made a donation to charity in lieu of sending Christmas cards. This year I made a donation to Great Ormond Street. I know Great Ormond Street has helped many constituents as well as children and families across the country. They provide exceptional clinical care to children and, not only do they provide medical support and treatment, they provide invaluable emotional support to families and loved ones at a very difficult time.
Over the years a number of families I have met in Rochford and Southend tell me of their experiences of Great Ormond Street and speak so highly of everyone there, I wanted to do my bit to support them.
For those of you that may not be aware, Southend Borough Council organised a Toy Drive towards the end of last year that saw toy donations being given to vulnerable children at Christmas. The Toy Drive provides the donated gifts to children at Children’s Centres, refuges and children’s parties that are run by local charities. I was delighted to be able to support this fantastic initiative that ensures vulnerable children have a gift at Christmas. Christmas time is yet another example of how our communities pull together and look out for others. I know all the children that receive these gifts will have really appreciated them.
By the time this column is printed I will have returned to Westminster. I have a fairly busy week in Parliament this week both in the House of Commons and at the Foreign Office with Ministerial meetings. On Friday I will be returning to the constituency for a day packed with meetings here in Rochford and Southend and I will tell you all about that next week.
My first engagement of an action packed constituency day on Friday was a tour of local company Riga who design and manufacture domestic high quality, high fidelity sound systems.
I have previously visited Riga but was unable to have a tour as it was not appropriate at that time and so as I was really interested in seeing what they do I wrote to them asking if I could go back.
I have also written about Riga before after attending an Award Ceremony where they were presented with ``The Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade’. The UK’s highest accolade for business success. In recognition of overseas sales growth over the last three years and the unique way in which they select and work with their export partners around the world. Riga employ more than one hundred people and supply over forty countries worldwide. This year they were also the winner of the Inaugural UK Manufacturing Award.
Next on the agenda was a visit to The Royals in Southend where I was delighted to be able to play a small part in Fundraising and to show my support.
This Christmas the Royals are supporting The Net Foundation (a registered charity providing help and support to those affected by Neuroendocrine Cancers) and The Keyhole Cancer appeal at Southend Hospital which are both charities that I support and are interested in.
After my fundraising frivolities I sped back to my constituency office for a coffee and a chat with Simon Dedman from BBC Heart who is their political reporter who wanted to meet with me and to introduce himself
Engaging with my constituents is really important and whilst many constituents read local newspapers there are other methods of communicating and so local radio is also important.
Finally I was happy to hear last week that Southend came 3rd in the most tweeted about places in England this year behind Essex in second place and London which came first #Southend
I have written before about the subject of AIDS and have been a supporter of World AIDS Day for many years,
Last week , during HIV Testing Week, I attended the `Halve It` World AIDS Day drop-in event in the House of Commons where campaigners told MP’s about their objective to `Halve it` . The objective is to halve the number of people who are left undiagnosed or diagnosed late with HIV, and also educate people about how they can join the HIV testing world record attempt. It was during this event that I took an HIV test, you may have seen the picture on twitter!
On Tuesday, World AIDS Day, I will be showing my support by wearing my red ribbon. The red ribbon is the international symbol of support for people living with HIV. It symbolises us all standing together in solidarity for a world where HIV stigma has improved but further awareness still needs to be raised. World AIDS Day provides an opportunity once a year where we can all remind ourselves of this awful disease.
Before I became an MP I worked for Barclays Bank and lived in Africa, and now within my role at the Foreign Office I have visited many African countries. But what we have to remember is that this devastating disease isn’t just something that happens to people in developing countries, it touches the lives of thousands of people here in the UK too.
There are now over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK and last year there were over 6,000 new HIV diagnoses. Worryingly, over 40% of these people were diagnosed late and it is estimated that 18,100 people with HIV live in the UK who do not know they have it. In recent years HIV diagnoses have been relatively stable, however since 2011 new diagnoses have sadly been increasing gradually.
World AIDS Day is really important in educating people about HIV and to combat HIV related prejudice. But most importantly to raise awareness of HIV and to encourage people to go and get tested.
I would not normally write about my time in Parliament, however I thought this week it might be interesting to give you a flavour of a typical week in Westminster.
After a busy weekend I returned to Parliament on Monday, caught up with my team and listened to an Oral Briefing and spoke for the Government in a debate on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The house sat until 10pm and I was there ready to vote until the business of the day had finished.
Tuesday started with meetings with UK Trade and Investment which is a department within the Government, followed by more meetings and more voting in the House of Commons and then a meeting with a Foreign Minister.
Wednesday kicked off with a meeting with the Vice President of Zambia. I then returned to Parliament in time for Prime Minister’s Questions and then recorded a video for Chatham House Conference on 40 years of Angolan Independence. I went back to the House to vote and ended the day with more meetings!
I answered an Urgent Question and had a 40 minute debate in the House of Commons on Burma at the despatch box on Thursday. It was fantastic to get back in the saddle and to be able to answer such an important question on the release of political activists who are being held in Burmese prisons ahead of the elections in Burma on 8th November. After a quick lunch and recharge, I then made my way back over to the House of Commons to participate in the debate on the Dog Meat Trade, something a number of constituents have raised with me which they are passionate about.
Friday was one of thirteen Fridays in the year where MPs are required in Parliament rather than in their constituency so it was a day spent in the House of Commons listening to debates and voting!
As I write this, the weekend has started, Saturday is to be spent close to the phone speaking to foreign ministers and Sunday I will be attending Remembrance Sunday at the Westcliff Cenotaph.
I really enjoy discovering the variety of businesses that are located within Industrial Estates. Over the past ten years I have taken the opportunity a number of times to walk around the various Industrial Estates we have locally and have met a wide variety of businesses. Historically, before I explored these fascinating places, if I thought about the type of businesses that would be found on an Industrial Estate I would think about glazers, mechanics, storage facilities, DIY and trade goods. Now, having spent time discovering them, I realise there is so much more to an Industrial Estate.
Right here in Rochford and Southend most of us will have heard of Keymed, arguably one of the most well-known companies locally that trades from an Industrial Estate. Many of you may not be aware that there is a company that produces all of the seating for Odeon cinemas across the country and another company that restores and repairs surgical equipment used in theatres for hospitals across the UK and overseas. Not only do we have businesses including retail we also have recreational facilities including indoor activity centres for children and roller skating.
Recently I visited an organisation that trades from an Industrial Estate and serves not just a UK market but also a global market in their field of expertise. Rega began trading in 1973 and they design and manufacture domestic high fidelity sound systems. Rega now employs over 100 people and they supply their products to over 40 countries. . Earlier this month they were awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise and International Trade. I was at the event where Lord Petre presented the award on behalf of the Queen and this fantastic accolade recognises the business and their success trading globally.
So, next time you have a spare ten minutes and are able to drive or walk around one of our industrial estates I urge you to do just that. You will surprised what you may find, businesses you never knew were there!
Regular readers of the Southend Standard would have noticed the absence of my weekly column recently. Unfortunately the radio silence was due to further complications from my bout of ill health I suffered last year.
I previously wrote a column about my illness, how fantastic the NHS had been and the first class treatment I had received. Whilst not wishing to repeat myself, I can’t write my first column since my recovery and not mention the world class care I received yet again. The porters, surgeons, nurses, consultants and anaesthetists were absolutely fantastic and I would like to thank them all for caring for me and nursing me back to health.
Whilst I am thanking people, I would also like to thank everyone that has passed on their good wishes to both my family and I during what was a very difficult time. I would also like to thank my staff who have continued to run my constituency offices, helping constituents and supporting those at need whilst I was unable to do so.
So, looking ahead, I am now delighted to be able to tell you that I am well and truly on the road to recovery. I have started to return to work on ‘light duties’. I have started to undertake visits to organisations and businesses. I recently attended the Whitebait Festival which was organised by the Essex Chamber of Commerce. The sun shone and it was a great afternoon.
I also visited Southend High School for Girls, met with the Chief Executive of Southend Borough Council and I have visited the new Oyster Creek Kitchen along Southend Seafront.
I am returning to Parliament at the end of October and between now and then I will be spending more time in the constituency. I am very lucky, indeed privileged to have a job that I would continue to do even if I won the lottery! I love my job, this is my dream job and I would like to thank you all for supporting me during a very difficult time and I am looking forward to being able to do the job I love.
I was recently invited by our neighbours to the Essex Jamboree event, I was delighted to go along. In my house I have a cub and a beaver and my youngest is very keen to put on a uniform and join them but is just too little at the moment.
Many years ago, more than I care to remember, I was a scout myself! I loved the comradery that came when you put on your uniform, tied your woggle and made your scout promise. Even at that young age I have vivid memories of the range of events we did, the team exercises we carried out, the fun we had and the friends I made.
I often hear young people tell me there isn’t much to do in the area and when you start looking into what there is to do locally I couldn’t disagree more. Right here in both Rochford and Southend there are a number of Cubs, Beavers, Scouts, Rainbow and Girl Guide troops. For those slightly older there are sea cadets, air cadets and army cadets amongst others.
Not only are these clubs a fantastic way of making new friends and spending time doing activities they may not have experienced otherwise, it also gives children opportunities that will enrich their lives and skills they will retain for a lifetime.
When I was driving in Southend yesterday morning I saw a group of cadets out on an orienteering exercise, all in their uniform and they were presented immaculately with their compass and map in hand and a smile on their faces.
Over the years I have met large numbers of cadets at various events in Rochford and Southend including the D-Day service and Remembrance Sunday. Whenever I have met the cadets they are all so passionate about what they are doing, not all of them want to pursue a career in the military but are loving the experience they are having.
I strongly recommend to parents and carers of children and teenagers to consider joining one of these clubs, there are many to choose from locally.
I have said before that within my role as a Member of Parliament I am fortunate to be invited to meet new businesses in the constituency and get a real appreciation for the breadth of knowledge, experience and opportunities that there are here right on our doorstep.
During the election I wanted to meet as many voters as I could and I ended up walking around Industrial Estates speaking with business owners and staff. It was during the campaign that I met with Daniel Coole, Managing Director of Surgical Holdings and he invited me back to a have a tour of the company and to get a greater understanding of their work.
Surgical Holdings is a family run business that manufactures and repairs high quality surgical instruments. The first thing that struck me was the friendly atmosphere as I walked into the offices and the professional environment with a number of awards on the wall clearly endorsing the work that they do here and I was keen to find out more.
After having a look around the offices and being told more about the company history and the services they offer, I was taken down to the factory floor where the surgical instruments are manufactured and repaired. It would seem that no job is too small or too large, they produce bespoke pieces of surgical equipment as well as the larger bulk orders they may receive from a customer.
Surgical holdings not only offers employment opportunities they also run a hugely successful apprenticeship programme. I met with one of the new apprentices who started last year as well as a previous apprentice who is now a full time employee.
I saw demonstrations of some of the work they do, and I was so impressed that surgical equipment manufactured by hand, distributed around the country and further afield is produced right here in this constituency.
Businesses like these are dotted around the constituency offering competitive services, employment and training opportunities and we should not overlook employment and training opportunities that we have right here in Rochford and Southend.
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the new Premier Inn on the former gas works site on Eastern Esplanade. I am always impressed with what investment can do for an area. From removing unsightly and useless buildings that spoil the view, to providing jobs and a means of supporting yourself and your family. As I toured around the hotel and spoke to the staff, I was really impressed with the transformation of the site. Of course, how could you not be with such an amazing view of the town and waterfront? This is yet another asset to Southend and her seaside.
There is one more vital thing that a plush 80 room hotel can also provide, and that’s a key tool for tourism. As we all know Southend is a great place, and it’s only with the ability to attract investment that we can keep growing as a major destination. With the well-deserved promotion of Southend United, the game which I attended and almost ruptured my voice box, Southend will attract even more people who want to enjoy everything we have to offer.
I am fortune to be the Member of Parliament for a Rochford and Southend so I get to live in this fantastic part of the country but for those that are now as fortunate then a new hotel would be the perfect opportunity for come to Southend with the family and enjoy this iconic seaside town and of course the historic market town of Rochford.
I will continue to work hard to promote both Rochford and Southend as I talk to businesses, government agencies and partners, because I want to see the continued investment that will lend strings to our bow.
Old sites becoming new hotels just goes to show how our economic recovery is very real for our town.
I fully expect a wave of Southend United converts who will follow our blues. I shall tell them to get the family, and head to us for the weekend, not just for a single match, and they will be well housed in one of the new hotels that is a living reminder of how Southend and Britain are booming again.
This is my first column since I was re-elected at the General Election just under two weeks ago and I want to thank each and every one of the constituents of Rochford and Southend East who voted for me. When I was first elected in 2005 17,874 constituents voted for me, in 2010 19,509 people supported me and this time 20,241 constituents felt I was the right candidate for the job. I would also like to thank the other candidates, we are extremely fortunate that we live in a democratic country, giving candidates the opportunity to campaign openly and for the electorate to vote freely.
I would also like to thank everyone that helped with my campaign. Knocking on doors, delivering tens of thousands of leaflets, helping write thousands of envelopes and calling residents is only achieved with the support of others, so thank you.
I am now back in the House of Commons and this is the first time I have been an MP and we have a Conservative Majority government. It is an exciting time to be in politics and I know that the hard work has only just begun. Each and every Member of Parliament, whatever their political views, needs to work hard representing their constituents and their constituency. I am looking forward to meeting constituents, visiting schools, businesses, charities and community groups over the coming months and years. I will continue to let you know what I have been doing and if you have an event you would like me to come along to, a business you would like to show me around or a problem you may need assistance with please do not hesitate to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01702 616 135.
Until next time.
So here it is, my final column before the general election. I honestly can’t believe how quickly time has gone. Days, weeks and months fly past in the blink of an eye and it seems almost impossible to think that five years have passed since I last stood for re-election. That said so much has happened here in Rochford and Southend East that when I reflect back over the past five years it seems five years isn’t long enough!
I have met with a huge variety of organisations, charity groups and businesses and I’ve attended hundreds of local events. I have worked hard on a variety of local campaigns, from securing a post box on the Garrison to delivering a driving test centre in Southend. From ensuring undelivered mail items for residents in Wakering are returned for collection to the local Post Office in Wakering not Short Street Southend. I look back over the past five years and I am proud of all of the things that together we, the local residents and I, have managed to achieve which have had a positive impact for local residents.
However, before the campaign started in earnest this was the final week in Parliament and it has been really busy with all MP’s preparing for dissolution.
In the constituency I held my official campaign launch at Pier Hill with local government candidates, party members and volunteers. I also met with the Managing Director of c2c where we discussed the proposed timetable changes that come into effect from December 2015. I also met with the Interim Managing Director of Southend Airport where we discussed the vision for the airport and I hosted my final formal advice surgery as the Member of Parliament.
So, as I put my down metaphorical pen for my final column before the general election I would like to thank the Southend Standard readers for supporting my column. I hope to meet you out and about over the coming weeks on the campaign trail.
There are now around two weeks left before Parliament dissolves for the General Election, those two week will no doubt pass with the blink of an eye. In addition to my time in Westminster this week I spent time out and about in Barling and Sutton. I was able to make the most of the sunshine and delivered leaflets for both myself and Cllr Mike Steptoe. I have also had various meetings including meeting with the Chief Executive of Southend Borough Council and also the District Commander of Rochford Police.
You may be aware that I launched my video series “#Duddridge Diary” recently. I will regularly post short videos on my website, YouTube and social media, updating residents on my activities in both Westminster and the constituency. The video diaries provide me with another method of communication and enable me to provide updates on any campaigns or issues that constituents may be of interest. I also wanted these videos to be informal and so whilst out in Barling and Sutton I filmed my second diary entry along Little Wakering Road. I think this is a fantastic opportunity to keep in touch with as many people as possible. I have already received positive feedback from and I hope that you will find it a useful and effective way to see what I’m doing!
I was able to enjoy the football recently and I saw Southend United and the Wycombe Wanderers at Roots Hall. It was the first game I’ve seen this year and I’m pleased to say Southend played a great game, and we drew 2-2. The weekend was only made more enjoyable by the lovely weather.
Don’t forget, if you have any issues or concerns that you want to raise with me please do not hesitate to contact me via email email@example.com or if there are any events you would like me to attend please do get in touch.
Until next time.
What a fantastic start to March with some long awaited sunshine!! Now that Spring has started springing, I took full advantage of the sun and took to the streets to deliver leaflets and talk with residents in Shoebury. Whilst out in Shoebury I took the opportunity to pop into the local Conservative club and caught up with some members. We spoke about both local and national issues and of course the upcoming general election. Normally when I am at the Shoebury Conservative Club I enjoy one of their fabulous lunches but I had actually already had lunch at The Old Garrison Arms, and I can personally recommend the burgers!
One of the most talked about events in Parliament each week is Prime Ministers Questions. This week, having now returned to Westminster, I was able to enjoy being back amongst the hustle and bustle of Parliament and my diary permitted me to be in the chamber for PMQ’s. Each year MP’s are given a small allocation of tickets for constituents to observe PMQ’s in the gallery. A number of constituents have attended over the years, if you are interested in watching PMQ’s please contact my offices.
McDonalds very kindly agreed to host an out and about surgery for me and so I hosted a surgery at the McDonalds along Eastern Avenue. Out and about surgeries are a great opportunity for me to meet with constituents in an informal setting and to talk about any issues they may have. I often find that some constituents I chat with at informal surgeries would not have formally raised their issue with me had they needed to come to an appointment in my constituency offices. As I result I must ensure I am accessible to constituents is vital.
This week I launched a new section on my website and social media called Duddridge Diary. This is an opportunity for me to inform constituents about what I have been up to in the constituency and in Westminster via video diary. If you would like to take a look visit my website.
Until next time, James.
Being a Member of Parliament means that a large variety of issues are raised with me on a daily basis, you may recall I wrote about those in a recent column. I also get asked to support a variety of campaigns, some will be beneficial to residents across the constituency and others may be more local affecting a smaller number of residents.
Since 2005 I have campaigned to save local post offices, secure Southend a Driving Test Centre, campaigned against train horn noise and also against radioactive waste. I have campaigned to have double glazing installed in warden controlled housing and have campaigned for Essex Thameside Franchise (c2c) to provide more late night trains into and out of Southend.
A recent campaign I have been involved in affected the residents of the Shoebury Garrison. Last year I was approached by Roger Hadley to run a campaign to secure a post box on the Garrison as the nearest post box for some residents was nearly a mile away, we both felt that was unacceptable. A number of residents approached us asking for us to contact Royal Mail to address this issue.
So Roger and I set about launching a campaign. We visited residents, knocked and doors and circulated a petition urging Royal Mail to consider placing a post box on the petition. The petition gained a lot of support locally and was sent off to Royal Mail last year.
The initial response I received from Royal Mail was not encouraging so I asked them to reconsider their position. Discussions were ongoing for a number of months and, after a hard fought campaign, I received confirmation earlier this week that a post box will be coming to the Shoebury Garrison.
The campaign doesn’t end there because we needed to get the good news message to local residents. Within 24 hours of receiving the letter in my office I had written an update letter that was then hand delivered to all properties on the garrison providing residents with the update and great news.
This just goes to show that local democracy and community engagement does work and if you have any issues that you feel I may be able to get involved please do get in touch with me, no issue is too big or too small.
The half term is an interesting time. When you’re a parent it’s an opportunity to spend some ‘quality’ time with your children.
It is also an interesting time if you’re at work. You feel the local markets and local events becoming a bit livelier due to more children and families out and about. You see the parents juggling things as their home and work lives collide due to the children not being in school in the day.
For me, half term is a time to combine two of my great loves – being embedded in the community as a constituency MP, and enjoying some of the local sights and attractions with my children.
I enjoyed a stroll around the Rochford Market to collect some meat, and had a wander about the Southend Museum. Little did my children know that going for a day out with dad also constituted work for me! I am often asked MP questions with kids in tow! It is important to me to enjoy life in the constituency with my family, after all I have made my family home here for well over the last decade of my life, and the whole of my children’s lives.
During a visit to the Rochford Market, I also ended up having an unprompted coffee with the lovely ladies at the Women’s Institute. The excellent local councillor Health Glynn introduced me to lots of people, most however seemed to live in Ashingdon, nothing against Ashingdon but Mark Francois is their MP not me!
While I enjoy having a hectic and packed diary, it’s always nice to shake off my office team and just go around to meet people who don’t always get to see their Member of Parliament in such an informal setting. I can strongly recommend the bacon from the butchers in Rochford, and no I am not on commission!
So I hope that you have enjoyed your half term thus far. I hope that you have had time for family and friends, or have simply had the chance to notice what a great place Rochford and Southend East is for us all.
9th February 2015
This week I want to dedicate my column to an inspirational individual whom has shown that sustaining a serious injury, being disabled or disadvantaged, does not mean a person loses their independence. Recently a young lady came into my offices seeking a work experience placement. This particular young lady sustained awful injuries whilst she was carrying her three month old daughter down the stairs seven years ago, when she tripped and fell. The fall left her with a broken back.
After enduring intense rehabilitation and determined not to be dependent on the state, this young lady has done everything she can to remain economically active and to try and secure employment. She has worked as a volunteer in a number of roles, is training to become a Counsellor, has done numerous courses at college and worked in retail as a Christmas temp. Finally, she has been offered an opportunity by the Shaw Trust to complete a 26 week placement at work, funded by them, in order to try and give her a platform from which to gain a permanent job role.
The Shaw Trust has been a registered charity since 1982 and is one of the largest third sector providers of employment services for people with a disability or at disadvantage in the UK. They work with over 12,000 employers and many public sector organisations and believe everyone has the right to employment, inclusion and independence. They deliver both mainstream and specialist employment support schemes across Britain and help over 50,000 people per year. They also help people gain skills and into work via a wide range of other activities including education and skills contracts as well as health and social enterprise projects.
I was so inspired by this story that I have offered the young lady a placement through the Shaw Trust at my constituency office. I hope by writing this I have raised awareness of the Trust and that I have encouraged more local businesses to do the same and give someone a chance.
For more information on the Shaw Trust visit http://www.shaw-trust.org.uk/
2nd February 2015
This past week saw the mark of 100 days to the General Election. Voters only have less than 100 days to decide who they would like to support to be their Member of Parliament and which party they would like to see in Number 10. Although this isn’t the case all across the country, right here in Rochford and Southend East there are also local elections to determine who you would like to be your councillor.
Over the coming weeks and months you will no doubt have literature from the various political parties all making pledges to you should they be elected. These pledges can be over a variety of topics, both local and national.
On occasion when I am knocking on doors and talking to residents I have people say to me that “they don’t do politics” I really struggle to understand what that the statement “I don’t do politics” means. I understand that not everyone is an active member of a political party or holds a membership card to a political party but everyone uses services that are directly affected by politics. Whether that be the NHS, schools, roads, the price of petrol pint of beer and food, taxation, housing, planning and public transport.
So, when I hear people say they don’t do politics I urge them to consider some of the places that politics is involved in, whether those decisions are made by a local council, county council or in Parliament. Decisions that are made by your elected representatives directly impact you in your everyday life.
There is currently a campaign being led by Bite the Ballot which is an organisation that has been set up to improve voting turnout among 18 to 24-year-olds. Events are taking place at colleges and universities to get young people signed up to the electoral register and in doing so will be able to vote in the election.
When a political representative knocks on your door make sure you talk to them about issues that matter to you and don’t forget to vote!
23rd January 2015
One of the great things about being a Member of Parliament is the sheer volume of extraordinary events and extraordinary people you can meet in places that often seem very ordinary. For example, constituents who are not professional charity workers or who are not experienced in event management but do amazing things in the name of good causes.
I am familiar with a large number of charities and groups that do a great job in our local communities, many of these charities and groups are supported by local residents, schools and volunteers. But there are also those people in Rochford and Southend East who take it upon themselves, in their free time, to do good things for their community, those who participate in charity events and organise charity events independently.
Recently I was approached by a group called “The Stones Throw” who are conducting a Charity walk on the iconic Southend Pier in aid of Cancer Research and The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. They asked me if I could help spread the word for them and raise awareness of their project. So I decided to dedicate this column to them, ordinary people who do extraordinary things in our community.
Daniel Crysell and Matthew Gaymer will be walking 100 miles up and down Southend Pier raising money for charity. The day is also open to anyone else who would like to walk for however far they want to. The event is taking place on June 14 2015 and for further information or to get involved visit twitter.com/theStones_Throw. If you would like to make a donation you can do that at www.justgiving.com/TheStonesThrow
I would like to thank Southend Pier for allowing this event to happen, to thank those who are organising it and those who will take part and support it, and mainly I want to thank all those people who make our community extraordinary.
16th January 2015
At the start of a New Year we are all so used to saying and hearing things like ‘New Year, New Me’ and ‘This year my New Year’s resolutions are going to be x,y,z or I am going to start doing this, stop doing that, do less of this or do more of that. If you are like me, New Year’s resolutions are made with the very best of intentions but can fall by the wayside much sooner than one would hope!
If your New Year’s resolution this year is to increase fitness, raise money for charity, dust off your bike and enjoy many of the fantastic cycle paths and cycle routes across the constituency or to find your trainers at the back of the wardrobe and start walking then I may have the perfect goal for you to work towards!
In July the British Heart Foundation are organising the 52 mile London to Southend Bike Ride. This bike ride starts at Victoria Park and finishes in Priory Park. Registration for this event is already open and funds that are raised all go towards life saving research that the British Heart Foundation carry out.
If a 52 mile bike ride is too adventurous or you would prefer something more local how about the Foulness Bike Ride? I have thoroughly enjoyed this event every time I have done it, it is a fantastic opportunity to visit a unique part of the constituency that for most of the year is not open to the general public. Thorpe Bay Rotary Club do a brilliant job organising this event, catering not just for adults but also children and everyone always loves the bike ride.
If your New Year’s resolution is not to jump in the saddle but do put on the trainers that have been in the back of the wardrobe then how about signing up for the Colourthon. The Colourthon is a half marathon walk that sets off at 8pm on Saturday 4th July. Monies raised are donated to the charity chosen by the walker. This event is such fun, people dressed up in bright colours and a very relaxed enjoyable atmosphere.
Whatever it is you set about achieving this year, I wish you all the very best of luck.
5th January 2015
Hello, 2015! I hope that everyone had a great Christmas and New Year. I also hope that you were able to spend some quality time with friends and family over the festive period. I’m really looking forward to this year, there are certain things that I know will happen this year, and others that I don’t. One of the things I know is that 2015 will be just as exciting as last year, if not more so.
I also know that from June this year another sunny destination is being offered from Southend to Menorca. We all appreciate that not only does Southend Airport continue to serve us with tourism, employment and holiday destinations it has also been kind enough to sponsor the much anticipated revived Southend Airshow, which is coming back for the first time since 2012 and is expected to attract 400,000 visitors in September. I know that this is absolutely fantastic news for our local economy and I am looking forward to taking my place along the seafront with the kids to see various planes take to the skies!
Now, for me, my personal life is punctuated by children’s birthdays, seasons and elections. I know that this column is not political, but I can’t not mention the general election that is taking place in little over 5 months now. People raise a variety of issues with me when I am on the doorstep, often very different issues to those that are raised with me in writing. Few people will know that once the election is called on the 30th March the area will not have a Member of Parliament. That said, I will of course continue to deal with serious casework and help people in need. I
I look forward to keeping you up to date over the coming months via my column and I hope to see many of you out and about.
15th December 2014
It seems hard to believe that this is my last column for 2014. This year has flown by and it is only when I sit down and think about all that has happened over the past twelve months that I realise what a year it has been.
I have attended 154 events in the constituency this year and I have met some extraordinary people, visited lots of businesses, schools, community groups and charities. In addition to meeting with officers at both Rochford and Southend council, Southend Hospital, South Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Essex Police I have hosted surgeries across the constituency and various places including cafés and McDonalds!
I have also met with politics students of Essex University, hosted a 60 minute mentor session with GCSE students, been a bingo caller at Mecca Bingo, visited lots of local companies including a Shoebury based firm Evolve, had a tour of the Pathology Services at Southend Hospital, undertook the Breaking the Ground Ceremony at the McCarthy and Stone development in Southchurch, met with Foulness Parish Council and drove around the Island discussing issues and being updated on local issues on and enjoyed Rochford Art Trail.
2014 also marked 100 years since the start of World War One and, rightly so, people across the country all paid tribute to the fallen soldiers. I attended a number of WWI themed events including a WWI commemorative Service. A truly moving and memorable service, one that I will never forget. I also supported the Parachute Regiment laying up and dedication of standards and parade.
Earlier this year The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited Southend’s very own Palace Theatre and saw performances from local budding actors on the stage. We also welcomed Vicky Ford MEP and Patrick Mcloughlin the then Secretary of State for Transport visited Southend Airport.
All in all, I think you will agree, 2014 has been a memorable year, I was invited to such variety of events and was delighted to have privilege to meet some incredible people along the way. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I am already looking forward to 2015.
4th December 2014
As my regular readers will know I am a big advocate of supporting local businesses, entrepreneurs, farmers markets and local trade and industry. I try to shop local as often as I can and where I can I do support our local small businesses. Whether that is the butchers, the bakers, the dry cleaners, the card shop, the café or the cobbler! Where possible, I shop local.
I am in a somewhat unique position as in addition to raising awareness of small businesses and doing my part in supporting them locally, I am in able to support them in Westminster and do my bit to listen to the concerns of local business owners about the challenges they face and trying to make life easier for them.
It is through the changes implemented by MP’s, hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the United Kingdom have benefitted from rate relief schemes, had red tape and bureaucracy reduced for small businesses, seen the burden of employment law reduced and cut cooperation tax for small businesses. It is through these measures that we, as MP’s, are supporting businesses in our communities.
This article unfortunately goes to print after Small Business Saturday which took place on Saturday 6th December but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your bit to support our small businesses.
Small Business Saturday is one of the busiest shopping days in the year, but with Christmas coming we are in the busiest shopping period of the year, well now and the January sales! So next time you are heading out to the shops, where possible, think can I support a local business or shop. Without our support and custom these businesses wouldn’t be able to remain trading and local residents will face unemployment and small firms having to close.
Both Rochford and Southend councils support small businesses throughout the year and don’t Rochford District Council is providing free car parking throughout the districts car parks on the three Saturdays before Christmas, so go on Shop local!
1st December 2014
Up until two years ago I used to send over 1,000 Christmas Cards each year and I was concerned about the sheer number of cards I was sending so I decided to make a donation to charity instead. I decided I would ask my constituents to vote for a local charity that would be awarded a personal donation from me in lieu of sending cards.
2012 saw Peaceful Place being awarded the donation. Peaceful Place is a charity based in Rochford that aim to improve the lives of people with dementia and also those that care for them. They operate a Day Centre in Rochford and also provide advocacy services for those that need it. Last year the Homeless Action Resource Project in Southend received the most nominations so secured the donation. HARP works to support the homeless in Southend, providing emergency accommodation, support services, hot meals and much more.
This year I am asking the readers of my Southend Standard Column to nominate a local charity that they would like to receive my donation. Nominations should be made via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and nominations close on Monday 15th December.
I look forward to seeing the range of deserving causes those who live in Rochford and Southend East nominate and I will let readers know which charity receives the most nominations.
Although I no longer send cards myself I do receive them and I would urge everyone that receives Christmas cards to ensure that once they are taken down from the mantel piece that you recycle them. There are a number of places that offer recycling facilities for Christmas cards, some charity shops and high street retailers provide recycling bins in January and customers can just drop their cards into the boxes and then the store deals with the arrangements for recycling.
I have recycled my Christmas cards for a number of years now and I encourage all my constituents to do the same, it is so easy to do.
24th November 2014
The role of a Member of Parliament, as I have written previously, is so varied. No two days are the same, no two enquiries are the same, no two visits are the same and no two problems raised by constituents are the same. It is that variety that I love. I relish the opportunity of meeting new people, visiting new businesses, engaging in community groups and speaking to residents. This is all vital if you are going to be able to effectively represent your constituents in Parliament.
Throughout the year I am contacted by pupils in school who are looking to gain work experience, students on a gap year who are looking to gain some work based experience alongside their studies and also people who are interested in politics but are yet to make their mind up if it would be a career path for them. All of them have one thing in common, they are interested in learning about politics, the role of an MP and the work an MP carries out.
Where possible I always try to accommodate local placements, I think it is really important that as many people as possible engage with politics. After all, politics is all around us. The decisions made in the local council chamber or those made in Westminster directly affect us all every day and the more people have an appreciation of the system and an understanding of the process, hopefully the more engaged they will be.
So, to that end, I invite my readers that may be interested in a placement to contact my offices. Placements are offered on a first come first served basis and it would have to be when the physical space in the office permits. That said I would urge anyone interested in politics to get in touch, whatever your circumstances are, if you are interested I will try and find a suitable time for you.
17th November 2014
I am not entirely sure at what point we are officially in the ‘Festive Period’. Is it when the Christmas adverts start appearing on the television, or the Christmas lights are switched on, is it when the children bring home their lines for the Christmas play or when shops have their festive window displays? I overheard someone recently saying that they knew the festive season was here when the Thorpe Bay Winter Extravaganza, organised by the Thorpe Bay Rotary Club and local businesses had been held!
The Thorpe Bay Winter Extravaganza is on Saturday 22nd November and is a night full of fantastic winter festivities for all the family to enjoy. There will be a Santa’s Grotto, funfair stalls and live entertainment. There will also be food and drink and not forgetting a Winters Farmers Market, and you will recall how much I love a Farmers Market from a previous column!
Once again, although a very fun afternoon and evening for everyone to enjoy, Thorpe Bay Rotary Club has a serious agenda behind the good work they carry out. Events held throughout the year have enabled the club to raise over £40,000 for various charities. It is through the hard work of the members of these clubs, and the generosity of those supporting the events, that make events like this such a success.
I know I have mentioned this before, but it is afternoons and evenings like these that really pull communities together and they can’t fail but get you in a festive mood!
There are plenty of other festive events taking place around the constituency so don’t worry if you didn’t make the Southend Light Switch On this weekend, or can’t make the Thorpe Bay event, or you just can’t get enough of Christmas. Rochford Market Square is hosting their Rochford Christmas Festival on the 30th November 2014. This will have lots of outdoor activities, festive fun and music, and once again, a great time will be had by all the family.
10th November 2014
This year marks the centenary of the start of the First World War. I have always been very proud to be British especially at events like Remembrance Day, when the old and the young pay their respects to those that bravely fought in the war. They fought for our freedom and we must never forget the sacrifices so many made for us.
Tributes were made the length and the breadth of our country from school pupils making poppies and laying wreaths to young cadets marching in the streets, remembrance services across the country and of course the inspiration poppy tribute at the Tower of London.
I wanted to dedicate my column this week to those that gave their lives so we could live ours and no words I could write would do justice so he is a poem written by Wilfred Owen, a soldier in the First World War, for reflection. Lest we Forget.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!--An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
3rd November 2014
The nights are now drawing in and before our minds all turn to Christmas we have a some events in the local calendar. The children have been so excited and preoccupied with Halloween this week, I have had very excited children at home, looking forward to dressing up and we had some very well behaved, but scary children knocking on the door trick or treating!!
Personally, before I start to think about Christmas, after Halloween here in Southend we have the Big Beach Bang. The fantastic fireworks spectacular that is held on Shoebury East Beach.
I first went to the Big Beach Bang a few years ago and it was such an enjoyable evening. Everyone was wrapped up warm, enjoying a family evening with entertainment, music, a few rides for the children and then topped off with a breath-taking fireworks display.
However, although the evening is meant to be a fun filled evening for everyone, there is a serious side to it, the evening is designed to raise money for local charities. The organisers of this event, Southend on Sea Roundtable 106, hold events throughout the year raising money for local charities supporting the great work that takes place in the community. Not only does the Southend Round Table host the Big Beach Bang they are the also the organisers of the Southend Colourthon, another hugely successful event that takes place each year and so far over 230 charities have benefited from the half a million pounds that has been raised from the Colourthon.
The Round Table was started by one man, Louis Marchesi and he formed the first Round Table in Norwich, the motto was “Adopt, Adapt, Improve” and now, from that very first Round Table in Norwich there are over 1,000 clubs and 13,000 members nationwide all doing sterling work for our communities.
So on Saturday, from 6pm, if you want a fun evening out with family and friends, head down to Shoebury East Beach and know that all monies raised go to support worthwhile causes in our communities. Have a very safe but enjoyable evening.
27th October 2014
My morning started like most other mornings when I am in Westminster, up nice and early, fire up the PC, put on the kettle, sit down with my coffee and check my emails. Once I was showered and suited I headed over to my office in Westminster to start my morning meetings.
Soon after arriving in the office I started to feel unwell, it wasn’t long before I realised that this was more serious than stomach ache, I felt dreadful. One of my team soon realised that I looked as unwell as I felt and called an ambulance. A paramedic soon arrived and the decision was taken to transfer me to St Thomas’ Hospital Accident and Emergency.
When I arrived at the hospital various tests were undertaken, x-rays, abdominal scans, an MRI and blood tests. After extensive tests, I was diagnosed with abdominal complications resulting from gall stones. I required surgery for the removal of my gall bladder but they couldn’t undertake surgery until I was well enough to perform the procedure, so I was in hospital for 8 days being monitored closely until I was well enough to go into theatre.
I was finally discharged from hospital last week, after my operation and I am now on the road to recovery. It is now, as I sit at home writing this, that I challenge anyone to find a better health system than the one we have in the UK. Paramedics, doctors, nurses, clerical staff, cleaners, porters and health care assistants were all involved in my care. MRI scan, abdominal scans, blood tests and x-rays were all provided without me having to provide proof of insurance or a credit card to make payment.
I want to thank all the staff that provided me with excellent care, I want to thank all the NHS staff that do an excellent job around the country and I will always work to protect our National Health System, no other health care system comes close to what we have here in the UK and I for one thank everyone involved and for making a difference.
17th October 2014
Charities play a vital role in our community. Not only do they raise awareness and funds but they also provide help for those in need. The larger charities, not just national charities, but the larger local charities are well known in the community. When you chat to local residents about a handful of the larger charities, their work and goals are often known. That is fantastic for those charities, but there are a large number of charities here in Rochford and Southend that are all too often overlooked due to limited advertising resources.
Back in 2012 I set about doing my bit to raise awareness of the sterling work charities carry out in the community. I wanted to support new charities, raise awareness of the smaller local charities and support those larger well established charities because let’s face it, they are all doing a grand job.
I decided that I would launch a Charity of the Month scheme on my website. The idea being that the Charity of the Month section will give local charities an opportunity to increase their visibility, spread the word of the work they do and hopefully get some support from others. There is only one stipulation to be a nominated charity and that is that they are a local charity.
Since I launched this scheme I have had a steady stream of charities, either approach me directly, or have been nominated by a constituent for Charity of the Month. Nominated charities include Peaceful Place, Rethink, Southend Talking Newpapers, Dystonia Society, Bosom Pals, SAVS, Trinity Day Centre and Pseudomyxoma Peritonei.
The majority of charities depend on volunteers giving up their time, without a strong volunteer base, a lot of the charities would struggle to function. I hope that I am able to help, through Charity of the Month, and encourage others to get involved.
If you know of a local charity that would benefit from being nominated please contact me and provide me with their details and I would be delighted to support them.
9th October 2014
Life is so fast paced these day what with work, school runs, kids parties, meetings and the need to be here there and everywhere. A couple of weeks ago Katy and I loaded the kids in the car and decided to go and get back to nature! We took a short drive over to Cherry Orchard Jubilee Country Park over on Cherry Orchard Way, Rochford.
The park boasts 200 acres of Wildlife Park, bridleways, open grass land, woodland and lots of connecting pathways which are fantastic for having a nice walk, with or without the dog! You can also do a spot of fishing at the lake!
The park provides a perfect habitat for a variety of plants and animal species that thrive in this unique setting. These include the Great Crested Newt, Pipistrelle Bat and the common frog! We set about the task of identifying the different trees and different grasses that are the park as well as the wildlife.
When we were there an event organised by the Friends of Cherry Orchard Park Apple Day was taking place. The event had three aims, one was to pull the local community together, the other was to raise funds to provide educational resources, undertake small scale development of the park and finally to enable investment into annual community events.
There were some fantastic scarecrows that children had created on the day, owl demonstrations, face painting, dog shows and some traditional games for both adults and children to enjoy.
The park was alive with lots of local residents and visitors all thoroughly enjoying the afternoon and the sun was shining, can’t always be guaranteed in September! This wasn’t the first time I have visited the park but it is the first time I have seen the park being enjoyed by so many people. The park was alive with adults, children and dogs! The park has gone from strength to strength over recent years. I can’t recommend this country park enough to residents of both Rochford and Southend. Take a stroll through the park, enjoy the wildlife, take the time to enjoy the peace and quiet and you will feel recharged and ready to return to the chaos of life!
26th September 2014
Does community action really work? Do local voices really get heard? Why should I get involved? These are questions I am often asked by local residents, my answer is yes, community action does work, yes, local voices do get heard and you should get involved because you can make a difference.
Little under a fortnight ago I was contacted by the Subpostmaster of Wakering Post Office who wanted my help in trying to reverse a decision that would see undelivered mail items being returned to Short Street Southend for collection.
Straight away I wrote to Moya Greene, Chief Executive of Royal Mail, enquiring as to the proposal and rationale behind the decision. Soon after I circulated a petition across Wakering, Little Wakering and Barling urging Royal Mail and the Post Office to scrap the proposal and work together to find a local solution. Soon after the petition was launched there were over 300 signatures and after seven days there were 560 signatures.
Earlier this week a meeting was held at my constituency offices with a representative from Royal Mail and the Subpostmaster. Everyone was working to try and secure a local solution. During the meeting it became evident that there were some local challenges from both sides that needed to be resolved in order to move forward. As soon as these challenges had been overcome, a local solution was discussed and agreed.
I am absolutely delighted that undelivered parcels will remain able to be collected from Wakering Post Office. I would like to express my thanks to both Royal Mail and the Post Office for working together for the benefit of the local community.
I would also like to thank the residents who got behind my campaign and signed the petition. This goes to show that together with everyone focusing on the community we secured a fantastic result for the residents.
19th September 2014
My wife and I took the opportunity recently of taking the children out for the day and went to a number of local events across the constituency.
First of all we headed over to Rochford and popped into the WI hall where the Rochford Art Trail pop-up event was being hosted. This event was promoting the Rochford Art Trail that was taking place the following week.
The Rochford Art Trail provides not only the opportunity to enjoy a diverse collection of art, crafts and design it also enables residents and visitors to appreciate the beautiful historic town of Rochford.
Whilst in Rochford we popped into a new local business that has opened up just off Rochford Square called Grace’s Attic. Grace’s Attic is owned by Mike and Leone, a retired couple who offer bespoke furniture and gifts. I would like to wish Mike and Leone every success with their new business venture.
We then headed over to the Flower Festival at St Nicholas Church in Wakering. I was not expecting the stunning floral displays that were on show at this festival. There were Pyramids, the Statue of Liberty and the Shard recreated in flower form, it was brilliant. The work that went into each and every one of these displays certainly was not wasted because they were appreciated by everyone.
Finally we ventured over to Shoebury Fire Station Open Day, a particular favourite with the children! They were able to sit in a fire engine, ambulance and police car. There were lots of local residents that came to enjoy the BBQ, bouncy castles and games. However, the day wasn’t just about offering fun to everyone, there were also serious messages about fire safety and protection being delivered with chip pan fire demonstrations throughout the day.
From art trails, to flowers, new businesses to fire station open days! We had such a fantastic day out and about. I hope you were also able to enjoy some of these events and I am looking forward to my next day out with the kids!
12th September 2014
In my last column I wrote about farmers markets and how they are a great vehicle for pulling communities together. Another fantastic example of communities working together is the Southend-Community-in-Harmony Partnership annual event that is taking place at Priory Park on Saturday 21st September.
Back in 2002 Essex Police and Trust links met to discuss various ways organisations could work together to help reduce hate crime, improve mental health awareness and generally make the area a better place. One of the ideas that was generated was a multi cultural event for all the family. The event was designed to highlight the Southend Community-in-Harmony partnership core aims which include celebrating diversity, culture and heritage of the local community, promote greater understanding and tolerance within the community, to break down barriers of ignorance and misunderstanding and to facilitate partnership working between various community groups.
Over the past decade this annual event has increased in popularity and, as a result of the increase in popularity, has had to move from various locations to accommodate the increasing numbers! I am delighted that this event is so well supported by various community groups and the residents of our area.
I first went to this event a few years ago and since then I am overwhelmed by the success and support the event has managed to achieve.
As I write this I have just been sent a copy of the programme and the activities that are taking place. It looks like this year will not disappoint! There will be activities for the children, arts and crafts, vintage tea marquee, music and dancing, food and refreshments and a youth zone.
Having attended a number of these events now and seen the popularity soar I would recommend this event – you will have a fantastic time and see a variety of communities pulling together and offering a first class day out for all the family
5th September 2014
In years gone by next door neighbours, indeed entire streets, would know each other and probably be more than neighbours, they would be friends. Over the years, with life becoming more fast paced it became less and less common. I am pleased to say though that with some very active community focused residents, groups and organisations, the community is pulling together once again.
Rochford and Southend East is such a diverse constituency, there are both urban and rural areas, town centres and shopping parades such as West Road in Shoebury, Rochford Market Square and Thorpe Bay Broadway and then at the other end of the spectrum there is the Community Wildlife Park in Barling. One thing that works in pulling together the community, no matter where you live, is a good old fashioned Farmers Market!
Farmers Markets are a fantastic platform for locally produced goods to be sold locally, to local residents and of course visitors! We are very lucky that there are a number of farmers markets across the constituency and I always try to go to as many as possible. There are farmers markets in Barling, Great Wakering, Thorpe Bay, Rochford and Southend High Street. A farmers market is the perfect tool to pull a community together. On visiting the farmers market in Barling recently I met a local butcher who produces all of his own sausages in Barling. Indeed there is a well known sausage called the Barling Beauty which makes appearances on menus in country pubs! There were also locally grown vegetables, speciality breads, sweets, chocolates and jams and cakes!
As I meet the traders and speak to residents it is clear that everyone loves supporting their local farmers market, there is often a chance to grab a coffee and slice of home made cake, sit down with family and friends, meet local suppliers and enjoy some fantastic produce.
I am looking forward to going along to my next farmers market and I would urge anyone yet to visit experience one to go along to your next local farmers market, and I challenge you not to walk away with some delicious treats for you and the family!
Until next time
29th August 2014
The majority of jobs nowadays come with a job description, roles and responsibilities and clear business objectives and expectations of performance. Particularly for me, coming from a business background, this was standard practice.
However the role of an MP differs slightly, there is not a clear job description for you to refer to. Upon election you take an oath in Parliament whereby you state you will be loyal to the Queen, but beyond that you are left to your own devices.
Of course constituents have their own expectations on how the MP should perform. There will be standards expected and objectives set by the Party, both locally and nationally that the newly elected Member will of course be working towards but there isn’t a check list of how each day should look, what you should be doing and how you should be doing it.
Despite the lack of formal job description it is appreciated that a vital part of the role is to engage with residents and discuss any issues they may be having, be that personal, local or national. To enable MP’s to meet with residents, advice surgeries are held.
In 2006 I decided in addition to the surgeries I held in my constituency offices I would look at hosting them in the community, without appointment and at various locations. This enables me to engage with as many residents as possible. Since then I have hosted surgeries at numerous venues including, B&Q, Waitrose, McDonalds, community centres, Fish and Chip Shops and cafes.
I am now looking to hold coffee mornings in people’s houses. The idea is to speak with residents and discuss any issues ensuring that I will be better equipped to represent you in Parliament. If you would like to have your MP pop in for a cup of coffee and be willing to invite 10-15 neighbours to give me a grilling over a drink and a custard cream please give me a call or email me at email@example.com
22nd August 2014
It was excellent to see thousands of visitors arrive in Southend for this year’s Southend Summercare Carnival that took place between 7th and 16th August; it was an even greater success than last year’s.
Events such as the Carnival Fun Fair, teddy bears picnic and of course the Carnival Procession encourage people of all ages to participate and allow families to have many fun days out. The Carnival Procession that took place on the final Saturday along Southend seafront attracted thousands of people, 80 acts and floats, this procession has always been one of the largest in the UK.
Many new events had been created for this year’s carnival, attracting even more visitors which was excellent, and the new Accessible Viewing Area for the procession proved to be a massive success. Southend always put on a spectacular carnival and it was great to see the community come together and raise money for local charities. A huge thanks to all the organisers and volunteers for doing an amazing job.
This year each float in the Carnival Procession was able to collect donations themselves and give them to a charity of their choice. In previous years, public donations have been distributed across chosen charities by the carnival organisers. Over £10million has been raised so far for the local voluntary community by the Southend Carnival Association.
I hope that the carnival provided an enjoyable experience for all; it’s excellent to see the massive support that this year’s carnival received locally, and as the carnival relies heavily on sponsors, the sponsorship from local businesses was greatly appreciated.
It was wonderful to see so many children attending the events at this year’s carnival making the most of their summer holidays, and a variety of people of all ages enjoying their weekends with friends and family in the local community.
Until next time
14th August 2014
During the summer recess, as I have said previously, there are some people that assume MP’s are on a long holiday. Whilst I do take the chance, like most other families, to have a two week holiday with my family, the rest of the time I am working hard for residents.
I decided last week to spend the entire day out and about talking to residents. The original plan was to try and visit every ward in the constituency, spending time knocking on doors and just having an informal chat, I didn’t want to over engineer the day. Despite the best of intentions, it became clear early on that I wasn’t going to visit every ward as I was able to meet with lots of residents who seemed genuinely pleased that I had knocked on the door to say hi and wanted to talk to me.
Conversations on the door step varied, some residents were excited about the regeneration plans for Victoria Avenue, others were delighted with the new library in Southend , a few residents spoke to me about the expansion of Southend Airport and how they would ‘never fly from anywhere else now’ and others were thrilled c2c had been awarded the Essex Thameside Franchise.
Some residents also raised personal issues with me that I have started looking into for them. Local issues raised included speeding cars in Cumberland Avenue, poor road surfacing in Southchurch and overgrown trees in Sycamore Grove.
Spending time out and about is by far one of the best ways to stay in touch with what is happening in the local community, not always the challenges facing an area or individuals but to celebrate achievements within the community, supporting new business ventures, celebrate continued success of established businesses and of course individuals who work within their community to make it a better place.
If you have any issues or concerns whether they be local, national or personal or you would like to celebrate a success story please do get in touch with me.
Until next time
30th July 2014
Firstly, I would like to thank the Southend Standard for providing me with this opportunity to write a weekly article and keep you, the readers, informed of my activities in Rochford and Southend East.
I was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Rochford and Southend East in 2005 and I was re-elected in 2010. I am going to use this weekly feature to focus on my activities in the constituency. My articles will tell you about events I have attended, organisations, charities and businesses I have met and other local topics that I hope will be of interest.
I recently carried out my first newspaper review for BBC Essex. This was for the breakfast show with James Whale and I had an early start to get to Chelmsford for 7am. The interview gave me the opportunity to review the newspapers and discuss currently affairs, both local and national and I am looking forward to going back again.
I was invited to speak at the synagogue on Finchley Road in Southend West. I really enjoyed chatting with the group about the role as an MP, both in Westminster and Southend and I was asked a variety of questions from Southend Airport to Tours of Parliament.
I had productive meetings with the Chief Executives of both Southend Borough Council, Rob Tinlin and South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust CEO Sally Morris. In addition I also met with Roger Clements of Southend Airport.
At the weekend, I attended the annual Garden Party hosted by the Mayor. This event is always a fantastic afternoon, particularly because of the money it raises for local charities. The Mayor’s charities this year are Muscular Dystrophy and the Southend Community Fund. Throughout the Mayoral year, events hosted by the Mayor raise money for charity and the afternoon was made even more enjoyable with the sunshine!
Now that Parliament is on summer recess I am looking forward to spending more time out and about in the constituency and with the family.
Until next time