Sunday, 29 March 2009
Watching these ladies today was impressive. They were in on every bone crunching tackle. They scrummed well and their backs were damn fast. You soon forget you are watching a group of ladies of all different ages and I got totally immersed in the game, cheering on the team with the husbands, parents and children. Sadly I had to leave at half time but the ladies were winning 7-5 so hopefully they held on to their lead. If you have a spare Sunday afternoon and want to watch some good honest contact sport, head down to Aylesford Rugby club and watch the ladies 1st XV - I promise you won't be disappointed by their ability and commitment to the game.
UPDATE: The Bulls won 14-12!
Saturday, 28 March 2009
Friday, 27 March 2009
Thank you for your e-petition.
The Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing is a vital transport link for both the national and South East economies which has brought huge economic benefits and opportunities. However, more vehicles want to use the Crossing than it can accommodate, and studies indicate that without any charge traffic levels would be 17% higher leading to even more extensive congestion.
That is why, using powers agreed by Parliament and following a full consultation, a charge replaced the existing toll in 2003.
With continuing traffic pressures and the prospect of demand rising in the longer term The Department for Transport consulted on a change to charges in December 2006 including the removal of overnight charges, and a new charging structure that offered greater discounts for those who pay be electronic DART-Tag. The consultation also sought views about the possibility of creating a local resident discount scheme. . In April 2007, the Department for Transport responded to the consultation, announcing that it would develop a local discount scheme. A further consultation in February 2008 sought comments on the local discount scheme. The new charging structure and the local discount scheme came into operation on 15 November 2008.
To deal with each of the three specific points made in the e-petition in turn:
· To say congestion is largely due to the effect of the toll booths is incorrect. For much of the day the Crossing is operating at or above its capacity. The tunnels could not handle any more traffic than the toll plaza can process. Under the new charging structure there are no charges at night when traffic is lighter - and there are incentives to encourage people to pay without cash. With more people using the Dart Tag, traffic flow through the charging booths will be smoother, helping to reduce unnecessary delays at the barriers. But barriers will always be necessary to manage traffic flows.
· Traffic modelling has also suggested that lifting the charges would dramatically and seriously worsen pollution on the Crossing. Air Quality Management Areas have been established adjacent to the A282 approaches to the Crossing. These require action to meet mandatory EU limits by 2010. The Highways Agency also monitors air quality annually.
· Anyone - regardless of where they live - can continue to pay the old rate of £1.00 by using an electronic Dart-Tag. Lorries and vans using the Dart-Tag will also benefit from significant reductions. During the 2006 consultation, local people made a strong case for a local discount scheme and we listened. Residents of Dartford and Thurrock are entitled to a tag which gives them 50 free crossings per year on payment of a £10 annual administration fee. Thereafter crossings will cost 20p each.
In the longer term we expect demand for use of the Crossing to grow, and we have commissioned a study to look at addressing this growth, including the possibility of a new crossing in the area.
Revenue from the Crossing comes to the Department for Transport and is spent on maintenance/operations costs of the crossing and transport investment both in the local area and nationally.
Sunday, 22 March 2009
My mum is totally non-political. Like many people she does not understand politics and nor will she care to learn. She politely asks me how my campaign is going but that is more out of love for her daughter than any genuine interest. However her influence on how I think, what I can achieve in life, and why it is important to do all you can to make the world a better place is massive.
Despite our differences over the years I have always been incredibly impressed that she managed to bring up two young children pretty much alone whilst putting herself through college to get her social worker qualifications. As a social worker she dealt with children and families, which can be a pretty horrible job at times, and from that she instilled in us a desire to help those who were less fortunate than us. Not that we were well off financially but we had reasonably good health and lots of love and laughter - something that many of the women and children my mum saw on a daily basis did not have.
Whilst she also had pretty liberal views on social issues - a real live and let live attitude - she was pretty tough when it came to doing well in our own lives. Both my little sister and I were bought study books to help us pass the 11 plus and strict homework regimes in order to help us get into the local grammar: mainly because she regretted not making the most of her own secondary education and didn't want us to make the same mistake, but also because she could see that the world was changing and a good education was an essential part of future success.
So I am where I am now - on the cusp of achieving an ambition I have held since my late teens. I am the only member of my direct family to go to University, I have an interesting job in the City and now I count down the days to the General Election in the hope that I can begin doing a job that I know will help make a real difference. Many politicians realise too late that a significant majority of the job is "like being a social worker". For me, that is one of the main reasons I want to be an MP. People say they go into politics to "change the world" - I simply want to change the worlds of those who come to me for help.
One very long-serving Conservative MP said to me that he loves the social work side of the job and the day he stops loving it will be the day he calls it quits. I couldn't agree more, and as she prepares for the week ahead back at work helping children get placed in foster homes or training people to spot signs of abuse or neglect, it is ultimately my mum I thank for that.
Saturday, 21 March 2009
Sunday, 15 March 2009
As if our local fire services don't have enough to worry about with the proposed control centre move to Hampshire, the new EU rules will abolish firefighters’ rights to opt-out from the working time rules. Under the rules, employers would have to ensure workers work no more than 48 hours a week and ‘On-call’ time in the workplace, even when inactive, would be counted as working time. This will have a devastating impact on retained part-time and professional fighters, who double up their fire work with other jobs. This will cut the number of retained firefighters on active duty (especially in rural communities in Kent) and there will be reduced local fire cover. My concern is that response times will increase as firefighters have to come from further away, and more full-time firefighters will be needed which may well end pushing up the fire levy on council tax bills. The Local Government Association and Chief Fire Officers’ Association have already attacked the plans.
Currently, in Kent, there are 716 retained firefighter posts and only 667 posts are filled, reflecting difficulties in recruitment. I genuinely believe that the shortages will get worse if Labour’s Euro-MPs get their way.
I also find it a bit rich that Europe is dictating what hours our local firefighters do. It is disappointing that Labour MEPs have backed these measures which could well see a cut in local fire services, putting lives at risk. Given this, and the plans to move the control centre away from Maidstone, I am not surprised that there are posts vacant in our fire service. Firemen do a brilliant job but the mounting red tape and hassle is going to make it increasingly difficult for them to continue to serve their local communities, like Chatham & Aylesford, in the future.
Today with the girls having a lunch time kick off I went to watch my 10 year old nephew play football in Lenham this morning. They play a rather odd set of two games with each game being split into 7.5 minute halves. I don't understand why they do that but never mind Rhys played well and they only lost 1 nil in one game and drew 0-0 in the other one. I haven't been able to watch him before because his games clash with my team's so it was a real treat for me. After his game finished I dashed off to Bearsted where our girls battled hard but lost one nil and then I managed to make it back just in time to watch England in the Rugby followed by Spurs' win over Aston Villa.
So after a relaxing weekend in the glorious Spring sunshine, it is back to work tomorrow on the campaign for change.
Friday, 13 March 2009
Edwin Boorman and Parish Chairman Joyce Gadd made two short speeches which were well received by adults and teenagers alike before the fun and games really could begin. Talking to some of the volunteers - there are an impressive 19 in total - it was quite evident that for them the opening was an emotional end to a long campaign but that they still had many plans for the future. And the great thing is that the teenagers are very much involved in the development and future of the club. I was most amused to see on the list of things the youngsters wanted organised including diving with sharks! Not sure that's going to happen at Mote Park just yet...
I was delighted to have been invited by both youth members of the committee and the Parish Council and am really pleased I went. I would definitely like to see more youth clubs in other parts of the constituency. I was, however, itching to have a go on the table tennis, as was Edwin, but sadly it would have involved kicking off one of the youngsters - and that kind of defeats the object of the club!!
After spending an hour or so at the Club, I headed up to my association's AGM in Lordswood and was delighted to welcome local MEP Richard Ashworth to the meeting. It was interesting talking to some of the activists after the meeting ended and hearing what their friends and neighbours are saying about the Government and in particular Gordon Brown. He is clearly being viewed now as an uninspiring and unelected prime minister who has sailed Britain down a creek without a paddle. Definitely time for a change.
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Saturday, 7 March 2009
Friday, 6 March 2009
Monday, 2 March 2009
Having joined the campaign to stop Maidstone Hospital's A&E being moved to Pembury, I was delighted to read over the weekend that the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust has decided to delay its decision until the new hospital is opened in 2011. I think this makes perfect sense and although hospital chiefs talk about them listening to the concerns of local people, I wonder how much of this has to do with the credit crunch? Several articles appeared in national newspapers today saying that a huge number of PFI deals were being axed because they were no longer affordable (and there is no money available) so whilst I applaud this act of common sense from the Trust, I can't help be a bit cynical about the timing.