From Paul Maynard MP <[email protected]>
Subject Paul Maynard MP's Letter from Westminster
Date March 3, 2020 12:58 PM
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Dear friend,

Recent weeks have seen some wild weather – and it is blowing a gale again. Living not too far from White Carr Lane, I can see the consequences of persistent heavy rain – and how speedily those consequences arise – for myself. So in one sense, it was undoubtedly good news that Blackpool Council launched two new Flood Forums (one for Anchorsholme & Norbreck and one for Greenlands & Ingthorpe) to complement that already existing on the Wyre side of the border. I was pleased to go to the Anchorsholme/Norbreck one which was full to the rafters – unsurprisingly – and I hope that both are as successful as the Thornton Flood Action Group which has such an excellent understanding of their local hydrology.

Of course, it was not a response to the current period of wet weather but rather a somewhat belated response to the floods from 2017. It bemuses me why it has taken so long for a combination of Council, Environment Agency and United Utilities to finish their statutory Section 19 reports – not least as I first saw (highly inadequate) drafts well over a year ago.

But anyway, this small step has at least now occurred. But new problems are emerging. We all hear about the need to stop building on floodplains – yet the discussion needs to be just as much about not building in such a way as to aggravate the likelihood of localized flooding. Two new developments in the constituency are not on what many would define as a floodplain, but they are altering how the landscape absorbs rain, and putting added pressures on overburdened dykes (not least along White Carr Lane). I also want to better understand the interaction between seasonal high tides and heavy rain and whether the Archimedean screws at Stanah meet current needs – as that seems to have been one reason why surface drainage was slower on this occasion than the past.

As ever, there are plenty of questions, lots of theories and speculation (which seem to turn into truth as they circulate around Facebook). Thornton Flood Action Group, in particular, have shown an excellent way forward. I now want to see both Councils offering support to householders who do have responsibility for adjacent brooks and dykes – as not all come under the Environment Agency remit – to ensure as much as possible they are kept clear along their entire length. Continue watching this space!

On (slightly) happier news, the new ‘Town Board’ for Blackpool met for the first time on Friday, bringing together Council, third sector and local MPs. Essentially, this is a time limited group that builds on the work by the Prince’s Trust which led to the Town Prospectus. Some £25m is now available from Government through the Towns Fund to help ‘unlock’ other investment, be it private or public, and the Town Board has the task to put forward an investment plan by the end of June. So, contrary to what you might have heard, this is not a replacement for the Council but what in business they sometimes call a ‘task and finish’ group. Still worthwhile as if we don’t bid for money, other areas will – and investment on the Fylde in our infrastructure remains a pressing need.

In the Commons, I have continued to raise the ongoing issue with private children’s homes proliferating across the local area. Whilst I have always argued that vulnerable young people wherever they are merit local authorities taking particular care of them, in a community setting, there does seem to be an issue that relatively cheap property seems to be making the Fylde a magnet for this sort of provision. Worse still, those local authorities sending young people here don’t notify our own Councils or Police, so the children are – essentially – ‘invisible’ until such point that there is a problem. Merely knowing just how many there are is a necessary first step in my view to determining how this provision is best structured nationally. Extracting that figure looks like it is going to be a challenge – so will keep ploughing on.

Just occasionally, I happen across a document in Parliament by chance that illuminates a different way of looking at an issue. It’s a while since I published my Energy Saving Guide which we distributed across the constituency – and it is well out of date now – but picking up a House of Commons Library briefing on fuel poverty, I learnt that data provided by constituency shows Blackpool North & Cleveleys has dropped from 22.6% ‘fuel poor’ households in 2010 to just 14% for 2017 (latest year for which figures are available). It is an encouraging statistic that runs counter to the narrative we absorb so much from the media – but it still makes me wonder why, despite all the effort, some 14% remain. There is a new Fuel Poverty strategy due out later this year, and I hope it has some new ideas rather than just ‘more of the same’ since we clearly to try something different with those who haven’t benefitted so far.

But to end on a few uplifting, community focused things, last week saw the opening of the Residents Wellbeing Room at Pennystone Court – surely the most innovative and committed care home I have found in the community so far, as they are always opening new facilities.

The week also ended with the chance to find my inner child with a performance of Aladdin by St Bernardette’s Parish Players in Bispham. I think we can safely say a good time was had by all- cast and audience included!

Kind regards,

Paul Maynard MP
Conservative - Blackpool North & Cleveleys
07885 651 705

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