From Helen Whately <[email protected]>
Subject Our road to recovery
Date May 24, 2021 11:27 AM
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Your regular update on my work for Faversham and Mid Kent

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** Our road to recovery
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Another incredible milestone in our vaccine rollout

The past few weeks have seen glimpses of normal life return.

When I was in Lenham recently, people were calling into shops, returning from the school run, and chatting in the queue outside Home Bake. It was exactly the kind of afternoon that would have seemed so normal in 2019, but now, fills me with hope and relief.

The progress we’ve made in bringing the virus under control is thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of so many people and the phenomenal success of our vaccine rollout.

Our local vaccination teams have been working flat out for the past five months getting jabs into arms. Over 580,000 people in Kent have now received two doses of a Covid vaccine, helping to save lives and get us back to something like normal life.

But we are not out of the woods yet. These next few weeks will be crucial in keeping the virus under control and keeping our recovery on track. Everyone can play their part by following the guidance ([link removed]) , taking up the offer to get vaccinated ([link removed]) , and getting tested ([link removed]) regularly.

National recovery was at the heart of the Queen’s Speech earlier this month. A new Health and Care Bill ([link removed]) will help us better integrate services and give people the care they need closer to home. A new public body for our railways ([link removed]) will help deliver simpler fares and reliable services. And an enhanced Environment Bill ([link removed]) will put nature at the heart of our recovery.

There is still a long way to go, but we are on the road to recovery.

** When your turn comes, get your jab
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I joined millions of people across the country last month in getting my first Covid vaccine

Our local vaccination teams are continuing to do a truly incredible job at getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

More than 1 million first doses of the vaccine have now been given out across Kent, and over 580,000 people have received two vaccine doses.

Thank you to all the staff and volunteers involved who’ve been working flat out for the past five months getting jabs into arms. I know what a truly herculean task this is.

People aged 32 and over are now being called for vaccination. With more restrictions easing, it’s crucial people take up the offer to get vaccinated. More information is on the NHS website here ([link removed]) .
Last month we heard the sad news about HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. His life of service continues to benefit so many people

** It’s not too late to rethink Swale Local Plan

Thank you to everyone who took part in my survey on Swale Borough Council's Local Plan.

It’s clear from the results that many residents are frustrated at the Council’s proposals to shift more housing to the east of the borough without a clear plan for infrastructure. 91 per cent of responders to the survey said they were either opposed or strongly opposed the proposals.

Swale’s consultation on the Plan is now closed, and you can read my submission here ([link removed]) .

The Plan could have been so much better if residents were given a meaningful consultation. I will continue to campaign for our community to get the Local Plan it deserves.

** Back to school
Talking to Year 12 students at QEGS about life in politics

It was good to be back at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Faversham this month to give a talk in the school’s new lecture theatre.

I’ve been keeping in contact with the school’s headteacher during lockdown through my virtual roundtable meetings, but it was good to catch up with staff and pupils in person.

I spoke to Year 12 students at the school about life as an MP and Minister during the pandemic and my journey into politics.

I'm pleased that the new funding formula for schools ([link removed]) is making a difference - particularly to schools that have been historically underfunded. This is something I called for along with other Kent MPs.

Last week, I visited Hollingbourne Primary School to talk about the improvement work the school is trying to secure, and was given a tour by two of the Year 6 House Captains.
Maximum prison sentences for animal welfare offences will increase from 6 months to 5 years next month

** Cultural recovery

Local arts and culture has received another boost from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

Over £150,000 was provided to groups in Faversham and Mid Kent ([link removed]) last month, including The Hot Tin in Faversham. The Hazlitt Theatre in Maidstone and Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury have also received grants from the Fund.

As a former Arts Minister, I know just how important culture and the arts are to our society and economy.

I'm eager to see theatres and music venues come back to life as soon as possible. In the meantime, it’s good news that more local arts and culture groups are being supported through this difficult time.

** Getting businesses back on their feet

** Visiting shop owners and traders in Lenham last month with the team from Lenham Focus ([link removed]) magazine

Seeing shop doors open and pints being pulled again has been a truly wonderful sight over the past few weeks.

The excitement of being able to welcome back customers was clear from the shop owners and traders I spoke to in Lenham last month.

Local shops are far more than just places to pick up essentials. They are part of the glue that holds communities together. As restrictions ease, it’s more important than ever we support our local businesses.

I know the cut in VAT for hospitality businesses and extension of the business rates holiday are making a big difference to many local businesses, in addition to grants and the furlough scheme.

** Gearing up for net zero
Last month MPs approved our most ambitious target yet for reducing carbons emissions

I’m determined to help people in Faversham and Mid Kent go greener.

We now have public electric vehicle charging points in Faversham, but we need more of these in our towns and villages to encourage people to make the switch to a greener car or van.

I’m encouraging councils in Kent to apply for funding from the Government’s On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme ([link removed]) , which helps with the costs of installing charging points.

The Government is also making petrol cars less polluting by introducing E10 fuel ([link removed]) as the standard grade of petrol from September. This has a higher proportion of renewal ethanol so it’s better for the environment and our farmers.

** Have your say on Shepway regeneration plans

A consultation has been launched this month on plans to regenerate part of Shepway.

I’ll be meeting Golding Homes in the summer to discuss their plans, which would see Cambridge Crescent developed to include 240 new homes, an updated shopping area, and new public spaces.

While improvements are needed, change can be unsettling. Residents of Cambridge Crescent will rightly have questions about these plans – particularly where they will live during the construction phase and compensation plans.

It’s essential this development puts community needs first and focuses on making life better for people in Shepway, which is why this consultation ([link removed]) is so important.

** Building back better in health and social care
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It's vital that those on the frontline of the pandemic are given time to recover

Thanks to the phenomenal success of our vaccine rollout and the hard work of so many people, we’ve been able to lift more restrictions on care homes.

As part of stage 3 of our Covid roadmap ([link removed]) , care home residents can now have five named visitors and it’s easier for people to make trips out from homes. I want to make visiting as normal as possible by the summer, and this is an important step on that path.

The Queen’s Speech earlier this month included our Health and Care Bill ([link removed]) , which will help to better integrate health and care services, with plans for social care reform to come later this year.

** No truck with rule breaking lorries

I’ve stepped up efforts to get HGVs off country roads.

With Channel freight returning to normal and Operation Brock being ended, there is no excuse for lorries who continually flout the weight limit on roads.

I know this continues to be a problem on the B2163 through Leeds, where a 17-tonne weight limit is in place. I raised this with Kent County Council and Kent Police, and I’m pleased more checks have been carried out recently. Thank you to everyone involved in the Lorry Watch scheme in the village.

Getting these weight limits put in place is a step in the right direction, but they need to be properly enforced.

** Action on storm overflows
Changes to the Environment Bill are good news for wildlife and water quality

An enhanced Environment Bill will see tougher action on storm overflows.

New obligations in the Bill will require the Government to publish a plan to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows by September 2022 and report to Parliament on the progress towards implementing the plan.

Water companies and the Environment Agency will also be required to publish data on storm overflow operations annually.

I know people are concerned about the amount of sewage getting into local waterways from storm overflows. This is something I have raised with Ministers and I’m pleased to see action on this in our Environment Bill.

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