From Paul Maynard MP <[email protected]>
Subject Paul Maynard MP's Letter from Westminster
Date May 3, 2022 3:02 PM
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Read my latest update on my work in Westminster and Blackpool & Cleveleys

Dear Resident,

Every so often in these Letters from Westminster. I like to detail some of what I have been up to do in both the constituency and down in Westminster. With some of the media coverage of late, you may even be wondering that yourself!

But I have certainly noticed a sharp increase in public activity since covid restrictions effectively ended, and I had forgotten how full a diary can be.
So here are some themes/highlights from the constituency for you to ponder over.

Perhaps most importantly was the fact the Conservative Party held its Spring Forum in the newly-reopened Winter Gardens. The new conference centre – partly Government-funded – will be the lynchpin of a new visitor economy focused on conferences, so very much a good thing. And it’s the first time a national political party has been to Blackpool in 15 years – so it was good to restart that. It may be one of the few situations in which I would welcome the sight of Keir Starmer and the Labour Party in town!

But more important than just the Spring Forum was having so many senior ministers here in Blackpool. This culminated in a cabinet sub-committee dedicated solely to Blackpool and how the Government can support its regeneration as part of the levelling-up agenda. No other town has had such a committee, and it was great to sit in on a meeting which saw actual policy changes introduced to address issues I have been raising for 15 years. This is testament to the hard work of so many to build a cross-party consensus on what Blackpool needs, with a ‘town prospectus’ that gives government a clear message, and has already meant the town has got £40 million from the Towns Fund, more than anywhere else in the country.

So when people ask what levelling up means for Blackpool, I can point at a range of interventions by numerous departments. Perhaps the most important in the medium term are changes to how social housing is monitored and funded. You may raise your eyebrows, but it is clear for some time that issues around a dysfunctional housing market contribute to some many of the town centre’s social problems, and which mean areas outside the town centre (where the bulk of the population live) don’t get the attention they deserve. By driving out poor quality housing run by unscrupulous landlords through a more energetic approach to inspections, we can start to stabilise the housing market, and create communities, rather than just streets where people live for a few months before moving on.

It was also a pleasure to take the Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi to visit two local schools. At Aspire Academy, he met Head Teacher John Woods and the team from School-Home Support which works intensively with pupils and their families who are struggling with attendance to provide support and solve the underlying problems. Intensive and focused, it transforms educational opportunities for those at risk of falling through the gaps. With Blackpool identified as an Educational Improvement Area (as a result of the cabinet sub-committee), this is exactly the sort of local initiative I believe should be funded more.

He then went on to visit Highfurlong – named School of the Year in national awards recently – to see the incredible work they do, and the challenges they now face as pupil numbers and demand from those with special educational needs across town are growing compared to the physical space Highfurlong and the other specialist schools have. Expansion is desperately needed – so I hope the fact he was genuinely inspired by what he saw (as I know from feedback) that we will get a favourable hearing.

Other highlights have included:

* Public meeting on the epidemic of telegraph poles and unsightly metal masts across the constituency thanks to IX Wireless. This is very much an ongoing investigation by me so no ‘official comment’ from me quite yet, but I am utterly certain none of this is quite what it seems.
* Similarly, a public meeting regarding proposals for a rehabilitation home in Cleveleys in an inappropriate location. For the avoidance of doubt, we all deserve the opportunity to access treatments when we need them, but providers have a responsibility to do so in a way that maximises the chances of recovery rather than their own profits. Another ongoing issue, albeit one I am quietly optimistic can be resolved.
* Attending a fundraising auction of art to raise money for Ukraine at Hive in the town centre, led by the inimitable Robin Ross. I left with a photo of sheds in Knott End – far better than it sounds, believe you me – though was outbid in the silent auction, much to my frustration.
* Went along to the opening of a new sensory garden for children from Brian House which volunteers at the HASSRA Civil Service grounds at Norcross have created. A beautifully sunny day – it looked superb, and I know children and their families will use it and appreciate it.
* Met with Blackpool Healthwatch to discuss the ongoing problems in NHS dentistry locally. In a nutshell, there simply aren’t enough dentists to deliver all the dental care that the NHS is able and willing to fund in the town. For once, it isn’t a lack of money – and so I am looking to organise a roundtable to better understand what those responsible for commissioning dental services are doing about the problem.
* I visited Thornton Health Centre to discuss the capacity crunch in primary care across Thornton-Cleveleys and the need for a new medical centre. Patient numbers keep climbing, and the number of clinical staff keeps growing, so local practices are bursting at the seems. Even without further housing developments, we need more capacity – as I have always maintained each time a new estate is proposed.
* Met with two local ‘independent celebrants’ who preside over non-denominational weddings and funerals to discuss the Government’s proposals to upgrade their status so the weddings they do perform don’t need to be repeated with a civil ceremony a few days later. It’s a fascinating area, which I could write a whole essay on, but in essence, there is a risk that the new status will only be extended to Humanist celebrants (as a belief system) rather than independent celebrants, who will craft a ceremony that reflects a couple’s choices and may include Christian elements (which a Humanist one will not). Hope you’ve got that …
* Visited one of my favourite local charities Sam’s Place who were hosting a stall at the Plant Place garden centre – Sam’s Place works with young people with learning difficulties to prepare to enter the adult world, and provides immense support to both them and their parents.
* Met with some ‘new’ key local stakeholders – the Blackpool Vic’s new Chaiman Steve Fogg (who also chairs the board of Blackpool & Fylde College) as well as the (relatively) new geographic Inspector for the north of Blackpool Jon Smith.
* Dropped in to the opening of the new Old Bank Apartments on Talbot Square – truly luxurious apartments in the heart of the town centre. They have superbly transformed the old TBS Bank into a number of high end. I applaud the ambition of Charli and Dan the owners. As they say "Our challenge was to bring the building into a vibrant and more relevant use, and to add to the quality holiday accommodation currently being developed in the town. Honestly the transformation is mind blowing!". I was very impressed and wish them well.

That by no means covers everything – and I have already gone over my word limit, so another one can follow soon on Westminster activity.
Enjoy the May sunshine.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Maynard MP
01253 473071

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