From Helen Whately <[email protected]>
Subject What's going on in Westminster?
Date September 20, 2019 12:03 PM
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An update on my work for you in Parliament and beyond

Welcome to my newsletter
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People often ask me what is going on in Westminster. It has been a strange – and sometimes difficult – few months.

I appreciate that Brexit continues to divide opinion. I’ve heard a full range of views from constituents – from those who want to see us leave without a deal to those who want to cancel Brexit.

I still believe the best outcome is to leave the EU with a deal – and the Prime Minister wants to see this as well. But we must hold our nerve in these negotiations and be prepared for any outcome.

As a Kent MP, I do not take the risks of no deal lightly. That’s why I continue to meet regularly with Ministers from the Treasury and Department for Transport o make sure plans are in place to keep Kent moving under any Brexit outcome. And I was pleased to see the Government provide extra funding for Brexit preparations in Kent (#Brexit) .

The Prime Minister has also announced extra funding for schools (#schools) and hospitals (#hospitals) – and I will continue to work hard to make sure Kent gets its share of this money.

In other campaign news - I was delighted to welcome to Parliament a group of campaigners (#Graveney) fighting to save Graveney Marshes from the Cleve Hill solar plant. There has also been some good news for rail users (#trains) with a new 15-minute delay compensation scheme and half price train fares for 16-17 year olds.

Earlier this month I was made Minister for Arts, Tourism and Heritage (#new job) . This is my first job in Government and while I’m excited to be taking on new responsibilities, my top priority will continue to be working hard for Faversham and Mid Kent.

** New role in
First day as a Minister with the Permanent Secretary outside the Department

It’s a huge honour to have been appointed Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism. I have lost count of the number of people who’ve told me I have the best job in Government.

As well as supporting national cultural treasures – the museums and galleries everyone has heard of – I’m also looking forward to supporting cultural activities outside our big cities, like the local choirs, galleries and drama groups in Faversham and around Maidstone.

I know from my constituency – which includes the stunning Leeds Castle and historic market town of Faversham – how important tourism is to the economy. I’m looking forward to supporting the many fantastic tourist attractions and destinations across our country.

** Campaign to save
goes to Parliament
Sending a clear message that local people don't want this solar plant

Fifty campaigners travelled to Westminster earlier this month to protest against the massive Cleve Hill solar plant which would destroy the peace and tranquillity of Graveney Marshes.

I secured a debate in the House of Commons to highlight the local environmental impact of the development – which would be built on land earmarked for wetland restoration.

The debate was postponed, but we were able to meet Environment Minister, Zac Goldsmith, in Parliament. The Minister listened to concerns about the landscape being destroyed, wildlife being driven away, and the noise during and after construction of the development.

I support renewable energy, but not at any cost. A balance has to be struck between the big picture benefits of renewal energy and the immediate, local, impact. More information about the visit can be found here ([link removed]) .

** More money for

[link removed]
Asking the Schools Minister to make sure pupils in Kent benefit from the increase in school funding

Schools in Kent will get a share of an extra £14 billion the Prime Minister has committed to education funding between now and 2022/23.

As part of this, Minimum Funding Levels will increase to £5,000 per pupil next year, with every primary school getting a minimum of £4,000 from 2021/22. This will benefit Kent schools which have traditionally been lower funded.

I was pleased to hear the Schools Minster, Nick Gibb, confirm that every school in Faversham and Mid Kent will get an increase in funding as a result of this announcement.

The funding package also includes £700 million for children with special educational needs, so every pupil can access the education that is right for them. Kent schools could be in line for around £20 million from this fund.

This is in addition to the announcement that salaries for new teachers are set to rise to £30,000 by 2022-23. This is vital for recruiting and keeping talented teachers.

** Three good news stories for
No more grotty underpass at Faversham station
Some recent campaign wins:
1. Passengers on Southeastern trains can now get money back for journeys that are 15 minutes late, following my campaign to get compensation for shorter delays. More information can be found here ([link removed]) .
2. The underpass at Faversham station is finally getting some attention. £130,000 has been secured to carry out renovation work on the Grade II listed building, and a planning application has been submitted.
3. A new railcard has been introduced which gives 16-17 year olds half price train fares, including at peak times. This will be a huge help to families whose children commute to school or college by train.

I know there is still a lot of work to be done to get the reliable and affordable trains people need. I have called for the Southeastern franchise competition to be re-established to provide the stability needed to secure improvements to the service. Earlier this month, I met the Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, to put your views about how to make trains better directly to him.
Giving nature a helping hand: Feeding turtle doves on Gaskains Farm in Selling

** get funding boost

Operation Brock is getting a £20 million funding boost as part of the Government’s preparations to leave the EU on 31 October.

This will ensure Operation Brock – designed to keep the M20 open in the event of disruption to services across the English Channel – can be implemented effectively, if needed.

This is in addition to new enforcement powers, including £300 fines for lorries drivers who clog up Kent's roads by avoiding Operation Brock approved routes.

Much of this funding is for contingency planning. Ideally, we won’t get delays at the ports and we won’t need Operation Brock, but if it is going to be deployed, it needs to work properly. This includes making sure border checks are ready and the police and local authorities have all the powers they need.

I've recently met Ministers from the Treasury and Department for Transport to raise the particular challenges Kent faces as the gateway to Europe. I'm determined to make sure people in Kent do not bear the brunt of any disruption caused by leaving the EU without a deal.

** Securing more money for
Walking the wards at Maidstone Hospital

Our local hospitals need investment so they can maintain high standards and prepare for the future, so I’m glad to see Boris Johnson has made the NHS one of his priorities as Prime Minister.

I’m determined to get Kent its share of the extra £1.8 billion NHS capital funding which has been announced for hospital upgrades in England. I’ve met other local MPs and the Chief Executive of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust about a request to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, for £350 million for hospitals in our area.

This money builds on the Government's long term plan for the NHS - announced earlier this year - which will see an extra £20.5 billion a year being spent on healthcare by 2023-24.

People in East Kent have waited too long for better healthcare. With the medical school on the way, now is the time to sort out our hospitals.

** Planning conditions must be enforced at recycling plant
At East Kent Recycling plant in Oare, where permission has been granted to expand the site

I was shocked by the decision to allow East Kent Recycling to expand its plant near Oare Creek.

Consent has been granted with a number of conditions – including a limit on the number of HGVs that can enter and exit the site and the size of the load these lorries can carry.

These conditions are vital for controlling levels of traffic and air pollution, caused by the expansion of the site. But conditions are only as strong as the enforcement that goes with them.

I have written to Kent County Council to stress the importance of enforcing these conditions. This needs to include having a proper process for investigating complaints from local people.

** Results are in from the Park Wood GP survey...

I received hundreds of responses to my survey on GP services, which shows just how much people care about local healthcare.

The survey has given me a good sense of what’s going well and where people are having problems. For instance, some people can get an appointment the same day, but others told me they have to wait over two weeks. I was shocked that one in five people said they have gone to A&E in the past year because they couldn't get a GP appointment.

I’ve shared my results with local GPs, asking them to work together to make sure everyone has a good experience at their surgery. I’ve also written to the local NHS body which funds GP surgeries asking them what they can do to help. Finally, I’ve written to the Health Secretary so that the Government knows that Park Wood needs improvements in GP services.

An online survey about GP services - for everyone in Faversham and Mid Kent - is still open, so please visit my website and take a few minutes to tell me what you think. The survey can be found here ([link removed]) .

** Please pass this email onto anyone you think might be interested and encourage them to sign up to these newsletters on my website, here ([link removed]) .
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