I hope you find this newsletter a useful summary of my work on your behalf.
** HUW MERRIMAN MP NEWSLETTER
** Welcome to my latest newsletter. I hope it is an interesting read of what I have been working on over the last two weeks.
Parliament is in Easter recess but I am still working hard out and about in the constituency. When we return we will be fully focused on completing legislation in this parliamentary session before it is closed (prorogued) at the end of April ahead of the State Opening of Parliament on 10th May.
Constituents are very concerned about what is happening in Ukraine and the Homes for Ukraine scheme. The visa applications under this scheme are not being processed as quickly and efficiently as they should which is causing anxiety for refugees and their sponsors. I have been in regular contact with the Refugees Minister about this and he has committed to deliver more resources to the Home Office teams. I and my small team continue to escalate the most urgent cases to expedite visas. We are also working closely with local authorities and voluntary groups who are setting up the systems and wrap around support that those coming to the UK for safety, and their sponsor families, will need.
Memorial Service for Brian Kentfield
I was honoured to attend a Memorial Service for Brian Kentfield who died in March 2020.
Brian was a dedicated, hard-working and well-liked Rother councillor for Bexhill for decades, as well as being actively involved in many voluntary groups . He is dearly missed by his wife Susan, their family, friends and his colleagues. Due to Covid, it wasn't possible to hold a large funeral service for Brian when he passed away so it was wonderful to attend this fitting tribute to him at a packed St Augustine's church.
I was pleased to cycle to Queens University, of Canada campus at Herstmonceux Castle during recess last week. This time it was not to meet their students but to find out more about the environmental work they are doing on their 600 acres. This work is about protecting the delicate eco-systems on the estate and working with local farmers to promote bio-diversity and sustainability. They have some very rare species on the fenlands in the grounds which they are carefully nurturing. I am keen to help them in their work.
St John Ambulance
I’m working with the Chaplain of St John Ambulance, Rev Robert Beaken, also a local vicar, to lobby for St John volunteers to receive recognition for their work during the pandemic. These volunteers work on the frontline and supported the NHS during Covid so it is only right that they are awarded the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Medal alongside all hard-working emergency services and the RNLI.
Covid Booster Jabs
Booster jabs are now available for everyone aged 75 and over, residents in care homes for older adults, and individuals aged 12 years and over who have a weakened immune system. People are advised to wait 6 months since their previous dose to get maximum protection from a spring booster.
More information and how to book can be found here ([link removed]) .
Southern Rail APPG
I attended the Southern Rail All Party Parliamentary Group meeting to discuss changes to the timetable in May. I will be engaging with Southern further and working with our local rail user groups to ensure that we have a timetable which encourages people to go to work on the train and develops the leisure market for rail to help our local tourism and hospitality industry.
Access for All funding -Battle
I will be putting my support behind the forthcoming Access for All funding bid to make Battle station fully accessible. We did not win funding for this previously and the rationale as to why the bid failed was not clear. I have asked the Rail Minister that criteria for the next round of funding is fully transparent.
Read more here ([link removed]) .
Family Hub for East Sussex
I was really pleased to hear that East Sussex will receive one of 75 new Family Hubs under plans to Level Up access to childcare, mental health services, housing advice, and employment. I look forward to working closely with colleagues at East Sussex County Council on delivering this vital support to families and young people.
Read more here ([link removed]) .
Sussex Integrated Care Board
I held a virtual meeting with Stephen Lightfoot the new Chair Designate of the Sussex Integrated Care Board. It was good to meet Stephen who brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to this post, about the national and local health and care challenges. I look forward to working closely with him and his team to deliver the best health and care outcomes for local residents from NHS and care services.
Heathfield and Waldron PC AGM
I try to get to as many parish council AGMs as my diary and Parliamentary commitments allow. I recently joined the Heathfield and Waldron AGM. This was a good opportunity to hear a recap of the work which the hard-working parish councillors have been doing over the past year for their community and their ambitions for the year ahead. I always keen to help parish councillors with any challenges they face and support them in their work.
I joined Southern Water engineers in Egerton Park in Bexhill as part of their misconnections project work to identify any pollutants which may be getting into the surface water drainage system which ends up on our local beaches. Cages are inserted in a number of sewer access points in the park to catch debris and the water is also tested for pollutants. All the samples we tested showed only water in the surface sewer which means no sewage is getting into these sewers and the only debris we found were leaves. This was after a night of very heavy rainfall when problems can arise so the results were positive.
I am meeting with the CEO of Southern Water every two months for updates on how the company is working to eliminate sewage discharges and pollution of our waterways and sea and this visit was to find out more about this work.
Stone Cross Action Group
I met with representatives of the Stone Cross Action Group who are campaigning to protect the villages of Westham, Hankham and Stone Cross from overdevelopment. We discussed the long-awaited planning reforms and I assured them of my commitment to lobbying the government for a planning system which allows for housing in appropriate areas and protects green belt and rural areas from overdevelopment. They are rightly concerned about the Site of Special Scientific Interest on the Pevensey Levels and I will be asking the Environment Agency and Natural England for more details of how they monitor the water on the Levels to ensure that this delicate and bio-diverse eco system is not being impacted by development.
Barclays Bank Bexhill Closure
Last Friday I met with the Barclays Bank management team to discuss the closure of their branch in Bexhill which will is disappointing news for its customers and the high street. Whilst I understand that modern banking has changed and many now do all their banking online and via mobile apps, it is important that major banks like Barclays continue to support customers in person.
I was pleased to learn that they are looking for a host business on the High Street to help them deliver an ongoing in-person service to their customers 3 days a week. I would ask any business or organisation on the high street who feels they could facilitate this to get in touch so I can put them in contact with the Barclays team.
Rother Local Plan Workshop
I was invited to contribute to a workshop on the Rother's Local Plan Rural Spatial Strategy. The council's aim is to locate development where it can best support sustainable transport and improve facilities and services in rural areas, enabling our communities to live more locally. Work was centred around the principle of 20 minute neighbourhoods and rural clusters. I look forward to the outcome of the workshops which will influence the development of the new Local Plan.
Cllr Jonathan Johnson
Today I attended the funeral service of Cllr Jonathan Johnson who passed away suddenly. Jonathan was a long-serving Rother Councillor for Brede and Udimore as well as a parish councillor. As we heard at the packed funeral service at St George's church in Brede, he was a much respected and well-loved member of his community who enjoyed country pursuits. He will be dearly missed by his wife Gillian, their family, friends and all who knew him.
Bexhill and Battle Observer
In my latest article for the Observer, I discuss the important legislation going through parliament, the need for planning reform and the Ukraine refugee visa issues which are causing so much concern. You can read the full article here ([link removed])
Our Craig's Walk for Charity
Last Wednesday, I wished Craig Andrew, one of my caseworkers the best of luck as I joined him for the first few miles of his 254 mile trek from Wembley Stadium to Bradford to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease charity.
Read more about his challenge and how you can support the fund-raising
here. ([link removed])
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