Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Thursday, 2 December 2010
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
Saturday, 20 November 2010
The key issues raised during the evening included the prohibition of commercial vans parking on the estate, the use of and charging for visitor spaces, plans to increase the number of parking areas, speeding through the estate and the improvement of play areas.
Saturday, 13 November 2010
As MPs we get offered an opportunity to learn more about the military by joining a scheme which allows us to serve time with which ever force we choose. I opted out this year, but having spent the evening with such nice but totally dedicated service men and women, I am seriously going to consider assigning myself to the Navy next year – I now want to know and learn more and witness the team and family at work.
Friday, 29 October 2010
Monday, 25 October 2010
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Colleagues from the South East have met with the rail minister Theresa Villiers to firstly, make it clear how unfair this formula is and secondly, to propose a cap on fare rises for Southeastern so that in the future it is no greater than other franchises, so for example, if as reported, those on +1 rise by three percentage points, then Southeastern should only rise by a further +1 percentage point, equalising all operating companies to plus 4%. The Labour Government’s differential formula for Southeastern has placed an unfair financial burden on the South East. Now that the Coalition is also setting out Labour’s economic mess, we need to ensure that the commuters are not further penalised by disproportionate fare increases.
I also intend to write to the Minister and ask her to consider changing the formula from RPI to CPI, which would bring train fares down nearly £100 for an annual (non HS1) travel card.
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
So at 5:30pm this afternoon, the Draft EU Budget came before Parliament for its rightful scrutiny. Each member state of the EU, including the UK, contribute collectively to a EU Budget which is then spent on a variety of initiatives across Europe. So, in a time when money is tight and essential spending reviews taking place in our country, you could expect every taxpayer’s pound spent and hoping to be spent by the EU to be questioned thoroughly. Perhaps more so given that despite every country across Europe suffering from a harsh economic climate and announcing spending cuts, the European Commission have proposed an eye watering increase in their 2011 budget by 5.8%, set to cost the UK a further £1.9 billion in their net contributions to the budget.
To put this figure into perspective. The UK payed in £6.4 billion in net contributions to the EU Budget last year. A £1.9 billion increase would leave the UK paying a whopping £8.3 billion in the coming year. This towers over any budget cuts made by departments this year.
It seems to me, as I am sure it does to you, that when the Government is making the tough but necessary spending decisions in trying to put our public finance back in order, the thought of contributing more to the EU Budget is unquestionably wrong. However, as we know, value for money was not an ethos adhered to by the previous Government who kindly signed the country up to an agreement seeing the UK’s contributions increasing year on year, forecast to reach £10.3 billion in 2014/15.
In the small print of this particular Draft EU Budget, you will also discover that the EU deems it necessary to factor in a £296 million increase in their own administrative costs. Why should the British taxpayer be asked to tighten their belts as the Government is admirably driving down costs and eliminating waste, only to loosen them again to fund higher administration costs in the EU? This is a question I put to Parliament during the debate.
What the debate essentially boils down to, from my perspective at least, is a basic value for money argument. So I ask the following questions: Does this increase of £1.9 billion represent value for money for the British taxpayer? Does it represent value for money for the people of Chatham & Aylesford? Is this the best use of the country’s finances? I certainly don’t think so and nor did the Labour Party this evening as they didn’t even turn up to support their own negotiated Budget. Every backbench Labour MP who spoke did so against the increase in spending, for the same reasons as outlined above.
Now our very able Minister Justine Greening will head for Brussels to try and ensure that the 2011 EU budget is held at cash levels equivalent to the 2010 budget and to reject the European Parliament’s proposals to increase the budget; she does so with the full support of Parliament.
The full debate including my contribution can be found HERE.
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
I agreed to present this award because having stood outside Chatham train station during the election I met some of the staff who not only cleared up our election leaflets that people dropped without bothering to put them in the station bins but also saw them deal with some pretty hostile behaviour from members of the public. I was impressed by their attitude and their commitment to the local environment which they are responsible for.
However I am slightly bemused to see that my recognition of the hard work the low paid staff do to make sure that the Chatham train user is safe, has been interpreted as an endorsement of Southeastern! I fail to see how saying well done to the two transport police officers who stop a woman getting mugged or the man who follows smokers around with a dustpan and brush is any kind of acceptance of the pending fare increase or striking train drivers? As it happens the former is something that has been raised with Southeastern in person by both me, Mark Reckless and Rehman Chishti and Mark has organised a further meeting next week with the Rail Minister Theresa Villiers to discuss the impact of punitive fare increases.
Monday, 27 September 2010
So for this year’s event, I went for coffee at the Village Hotel in Aylesford where it was phenomenally busy. There were cake stores galore plus activity stalls, creative arts for sale and a tombola. There were loads of little children there and I couldn’t really work out why until I was told Peppa Pig was expected to attend too! In one week, I have been photographed with men dressed up as elephants, lions, a water butt and a drink of water (don’t ask) I drank my coffee, chatted to some folk and then escaped before Miss Peppa arrived!
Speaking to the teachers accompanying them the school voucher programme run by Tescos and other supermarkets has become invaluable and has helped provide equipment that they would not have normally been able to afford. I think the schools vouchers programmes are an excellent initiative which not only get children involved and interested in the weekly shop but helps build good links between the supermarkets and their local communities.
Saturday, 18 September 2010
(Me and my neighbour enjoying the fun…and the kids quite liked it too!)
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Friday, 6 August 2010
The Academy was formed after the merger of Chatham South and Medway Community College and is due to open in September. BSF funding had been applied for in order to build a brand new single site school replacing the dilapidated buildings on the MCC site, but it had been announced that the capital allocation was under review.
This has understandably caused some uncertainty among parents, teachers and pupils but now that it has been announced that the Government will reward capital funds, we can draw a line in the sand and get on with the plans to build a new first class facility which will help improve the learning environment, teaching standards and results.
Friday, 30 July 2010
It happened during my visit at the first ever Luton Summer Camp (organised by some excellent volunteers and supported by Christ Church and Councillor Bhutia) and having watched some dances by the children I stayed talking to some parents and carers. A lady carrying a young lad came over and after I asked him if he had fun, his mum said “what did you want to say to Tracey”. He said “thank you” and I, thinking he meant thank you for coming, said “your welcome”. But his mum asked him what for and he said “thank you for helping me get my wheelchair”. Immediately I knew who he was for I have been helping his mum for the last 6 weeks or so fight to speed up what had thus far been a prolonged process for him to get a wheelchair. Although for some ridiculous reason it can’t be picked up for another 3 weeks, the fact is that it is now at the Medway Maritime with his name tag on it.
It annoys me that for something so simple the process was so difficult and that it therefore required the young boy’s mother to come to me in absolute despair and frustration. It might not sound like a big deal. Indeed readers might not think that given the macro issues the area/nation/world faces sorting out a wheelchair is a huge victory. But when I think that my letter helped speed up a process that will in some small way change a mother/son’s life, then I can keep on smiling safe in the knowledge that today I experienced the best thing about being an MP.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
“I can confirm that the Government has no plans to build any new airports in the region. Our aviation policies are firmly focussed on improving existing airports – making our airports better, not bigger”
So there it is then – an unequivocal no to Boris Island. Hopefully we can now end all future speculation on whether an airport will be built in the Thames Estuary because it won’t be under this Government.
Monday, 26 July 2010
Peter discussed the recent World Cup, Spurs’ forthcoming premiership, as well as investment in the grassroots, development for academies of talent, football finance and the number of English players and managers.
It is often said that footballers are out of touch with what the fans think so it was good to hear two football giants talking about these issues in person and not differing too much from what the man in the pub says week after week.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
(If this doesn’t enlarge when you click on it please let me know)
Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con): Under the previous Government, a photographer from Medway was arrested in Chatham high street under section 44 stop-and-search powers, and he and fellow photographers from Medway will welcome today’s announcement from the Home Secretary. Will she assure the House that any future revision of anti-terror legislation will strike the right balance between protecting the public and safeguarding the rights of individuals?
Mrs May: I am happy to give that assurance to my hon. Friend. She may have noticed that in my statement I specifically said that we would look at the issue of photographers and stop-and-search powers. It is one issue that has been brought home forcibly to me. I have had Constituency cases of people who have been stopped under those powers and been concerned about it, and I have received a number of representations from Members of this House, and indeed of another
place, about those problems.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
14 year old Mark joined me on a week’s work experience, which included him coming to Gillingham FC with me to hear about their community work.
I opened the Blue Bell Hill village fete and was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, shortly before Cllr Homewood won a much coveted coconut!
I was invited on to Politics Show South East to talk about the poor participation rates in Kent and Medway but, and I know there will be huge sighs of disappointment, it is no longer available on iplayer! The point of the piece was that a report was published recently showing the levels of participation in 3 hours of PE and out of hours sport per week amongst year 7-11 pupils. The national average is 50% and yet Kent and Medway were below average, and sadly Medway is the lowest in the country with 26%. Your Medway carried the story HERE.
The curriculum is under huge pressure and I sympathise enormously with schools trying to fit everything in but I would like to see a slimming down of the curriculum, concentrating on core subjects, so that inter and intra-school competitions can return into state schools. The Government’s school sports competition helps, as does local initiatives such as the mini-world cup, and Kent County Council’s School Games which the Government’s competition is modelled on. I also think that support for grassroot programmes is essential and as I said on the TV, this shouldn’t just mean football, rugby and cricket. Activities such as dance and gymnastics have become more popular recently, partly thanks to the success of troupes on talent shows, and they deserve as much support as football.
Of course with money being tight, there will be a reliance on volunteers and already the Government has made it clear it will support the army of coaches, managers, trainers and others required to help improve participation. Whatever happens though, policymakers locally and nationally must remember that sport is about more than just having fun, it provides good discipline, improves communication and teamwork skills and is proven to help concentration levels. A healthy body does indeed equal a healthy mind and if we are to improve academic standards then a good dose of sporting activity will certainly help.
Following a letter from Medway Council Leader Rodney Chambers, I wrote to the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond seeking an assurance that he would, as David Cameron did before the Election, rule out any proposal to build an Airport in the Thames Estuary. Not only is it an environmentally mad proposal but during these tough economic times when difficult decisions are being made to cut programmes, it would be financially bonkers. I will post the reply on my blog when received.
The first thing to say is I now have a fully staffed, fully operational office in Westminster and I thank anyone who may have waited longer than usual for a response for their patience. We have also moved in the constituency and instead of being based in Gillingham I now have an office in Lordswood, Chatham. I will update my website with the contact details asap. Two out of 3 members of my staff are from the constituency which is an added bonus for me and those who need to contact me.
I have joined various All Party Groups including those on alcohol misuse, drug and alcohol harm reduction, mental health, carers and dementia. Groups like these produce invaluable cross-party reports on policy and can help contribute to the debate on issues that often fall within wider department portfolios, thus are forgotten or rank lower than the big picture/headline policy areas. I am also carrying on my interest in insurance and am secretary to the Insurance & Financial Services Group. Plus I have joined the football group and the football club group – the former talks about football policy such as bringing in technology, supporting grassroots etc and the latter is about actually playing (unless you are girl and the game is refereed by an FA qualified ref and then one is not allowed to play – ahem and grrrr).
I am meeting some really interesting groups, businesses and people in the constituency on Thursday evenings, Fridays and Saturdays and am continuously learning about new issues, best practice and future challenges. I have enjoyed opening fetes and summer festivals and there are still two more to come before the end of July. My surgeries are fully booked almost two weeks before and having decided to do a rota for venues (two in Chatham, one in Aylesford and one in Snodland) we’re about to finish our first full 8-week cycle, just demonstrating how quickly time has gone by.
I shall try to set aside more time to update this blog during the week and now things are settling down I really have no further excuse not to!
ps – I forgot to say, I didn’t stand for election to a Select Committee, wanting instead to concentrate my time on other things, but I would like to congratulate Rochester MP Mark Reckless for his election and commiserate with Reh Chishti who unfortunately didn’t get elected.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
“We have the measure of this Government now. In only seven weeks, George Osborne has put together an emergency Budget that has restored some clarity and sanity to Britain’s finances. This was not a Budget of unavoidable cuts and inevitable tax rises. It was much better than that, and bolder. Mr Osborne has made some fundamental choices on tax and spending that were daring, but also sensitive to many of those who will feel the pain. There was not flicker of ideological fervour for cuts of which Labour has been warning; only a sense of regret and realism, coupled with an apparent desire to tell the bad news straight, rather than hiding it in footnotes”.
It is spot on.
Yesterday, the Chancellor delivered a Budget statement in recognition of the mess that Labour left this country in. The state of the UK economy was a key factor in the constituency during the Election and everyone I met on the doorstep knew that whoever formed the Government would be faced with tough decisions. Labour left behind one of the largest budget deficits in Europe. Thanks to their incompetence, we are now are borrowing one pound for every four we spend. If we fail to deal with the deficit the consequences would be severe – and it is the poorest who would suffer the most. We only have to look at Greece to see what happens to countries that don’t live within their means – more businesses going bust and higher unemployment.
The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have come together to tackle the debt crisis facing our country. The Government has taken the tough decisions that the Governor of the Bank of England and the G20 called for and that Labour ducked. But let’s be clear about some of Labour’s political rhetoric around some of these key announcements. Leaked documents following the 2008 Pre-Budget Report showed that the last Labour government were going to raise VAT to 20%. Their attack on yesterday’s announcement is therefore rather hollow. However it is important to note that it will be the wealthiest fifth of families who will pay on average over £500 a year in additional VAT, while the fifth of families on the lowest incomes will pay around a third of that. VAT will still be below the average rate in Europe.
Fairness underpins this Government’s budget. The Government will ensure that every part of society makes a contribution to deficit reduction while protecting the most vulnerable, including children and pensioners. The emergency budget sets out measures to refocus the tax and benefit framework. It also includes action to reward those who work hard and save responsibly. The Chancellor announced support for low and middle-income earners by increasing the personal allowance of £1,000. This will take 880,000 of the lowest income tax payers out of the tax and benefit 23 million taxpayers by up to £170 per year. In the South East over 3 million basic rate taxpayers will gain by up to £170 from this measure.
He also announced a triple lock on the state pension so it rises annually by the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5% from April 2011 – this will benefit 11 million pensioners, 1.6 million of which live in the South East.
Much criticism has also been levied at the announcement on benefits reform. Many people I met were appalled at the abuse of the benefits system and argued for reform. Much of what was announced yesterday will focus the benefits system to help those who need it most. I will however pledge here and now that I will call for an assurance that the medical assessment will consider those who suffer a mental illness, which is often a hidden disability and requires support.
There were of course many more announcements in the Budget yesterday all of which can be found on the Treasury website. But in summary the emergency budget sets out clearly how we will pay for the bills of the past and it also starts planning for the future. It shows how the Government will carry out Britain’s unavoidable deficit reduction plan in a way that strengthens and unites the country. It will along with everyone else in the UK affect constituents of Chatham & Aylesford but it will also help put this country back on track for economic recovery. The short term pain will provide for long term gain.
Saturday, 19 June 2010
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Having been around RBLI and seen first hand the excellent work they do, I was keen to support them in the Commons. The full exchange can be found HERE.
Thursday, 10 June 2010
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Saturday, 22 May 2010
The project plan is sound and exciting, will provide all youth organisations in the area with excellent accommodation and the youngsters are working hard as a team to put together funding bids. I am very much on board and will be supporting them every step of the way.
Sunday, 16 May 2010
What followed was a very exciting second half which saw us equalise twice, forcing extra time after the game finished 3-3. There were 7 minutes each way and penalties would follow if it was still a draw. Meridian’s Under 10s earlier won their Final on penalties and I didn’t fancy trying to pick 5 girls to take spot kicks (although I had in my mind anyway). Thankfully we didn’t need to go down that route after we scored another goal in each half and the game ended 5-3 to Meridian.
Gravesham played very well and have always been one of the nicest teams to play against; as a club they share our own club’s values of you play cleanly and fairly and accept the outcome graciously. All girls shook hands and it was acknowledged in the presentation to have been the best game of the day so far.
After a poor first 10 minutes, Meridian Girls played well and never gave up fighting. It is for that reason that I am most proud of them, not that they won a shiny trophy. They worked hard for their medals and as they left being spoilt rotten with sweets and ice cream by overjoyed parents, I am sure they will still be smiling for some time yet.
Friday, 14 May 2010
Sunday, 9 May 2010
(am in there somewhere)
(my nephew was very impressed with the cake)
(and my mum joined in the fun too)