It’s been a busy time in both the constituency and Westminster so here’s a very quick bullet point record of the last fortnight or so! When I posted one week’s worth on Facebook response I got was ‘Is that all’? Thankfully, my day has a 25th hour in it!
- Took Blackpool Coast Housing on a visit to Kincraig Estate on Ashfield Road, looking at the regeneration and general improvement possibilities – should lead to imminent improvement in disabled accessibility to the multi-use games area
- Held a dentistry round table with local providers and commissioners to look for practical solutions to increasing access to NHS Dentistry locally, and better understand the underlying local challenges’. Watch this space for practical outcomes around oral health – but the fundamental of not having enough dentists is a tougher one, though the key decision makers have now been brought together for what was the first time
- Persuaded Highways England a video survey of safety at Norcross Roundabout was necessary. This is following the recurring accidents within the area which admittedly needed a closer review.
- Met United Utilities incoming Chief Executive Louise Beardmore to discuss trialling extra financial help for customers in financial difficulty here in the constituency.
- Did multiple media interviews on the Government’s welcome decision to choose Fleetwood-Poulton railway reopening as one of just nine projects to go through to the next stage of the Reopening Your Railways scheme – a massive leap forward. I am now arranging to meet with the local Poulton & Wyre Railway Society and Network Rail to get down into the nitty gritty.
- Met with Thornton Flood Action Group to hear about their many successes, but also their concerns at the impact of gradual silting up of local watercourses.
- Wrote to Tesco about profit margins at Tesco Express and Onestop which punish those less well off unable to get to larger stores
- Met with Mencap to discuss updating the Maynard Review I conducted in 2016 into apprenticeships for those with learning disabilities
- Met with the Institute of Civil Engineers to share my experiences as a politician of running major infrastructure projects
- Secured commitment from Blackpool Council to road bollard safety measures on General Street
- Met with Educational Technology providers to discuss how they can benefit the constituency’s schools
- Discussed the crisis in provision of e-charging facilities for local taxi firm Premier Cabs so as to raise with Council
- Met with Royal Life-Saving Society to discuss local initiatives to encourage life-saving training for school pupils as we approach the summer months when more local children will be on the beaches.
- Launched an investigation into how those in financial difficulty but needing a ketogenic diet can get help
- Met with residents, police and local authority regarding concerns about supported housing provision within the town
- Called on the Transport Secretary to ensure those providing passenger services during the rail strikes don’t forget the special needs of disabled passengers. I know from my time as Rail Minister during the strike on Southern Rail there were far too many reports of passengers needing assistance but left stranded at stations.
- Assisted dozens of constituents in receiving passports from the Passport Office – luckily the cases are starting to diminish as the service improves but have still raised matter in the Commons about passports going astray after being sent out by the Post Office.
- Hosted a round-table for the Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities group I chair on improving access to elected office for those around the world with disabilities, and shared my own experience.
- On the Justice Committee, grilled Victims and Childrens Commissioners from across the country on giving new enforceable rights to victims as they go through the criminal justice system.
- My regular meeting with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Penal Affairs met to discuss the large volume of young people on remand who are found not guilty – and why this is.
- Took constituents for a bite to eat after they had come down to London for PMQs – any constituent is always welcome if they apply well in advance.
- Chaired my regular All-Party Group on Cerebral Palsy where we heard from parents about the transition of children with CP into adulthood, and how challenging that is – and discussed with the Minister Gillian Keegan
- Sat down with Ministers to discuss:-
- my concerns about changes to rules on weddings that may harm independent celebrants
- to promote my amendment to the Online Safety Bill to protect those with epilepsy from online physical harm – the Minister then performed a 180-degree U-turn a few days later so the sending of flashing images to people with epilepsy in order to cause physical harm will now be banned
- to discuss the changes I am proposing to the Public Order Bill that will ensure the emergency services can go about their business unimpeded without preventing the right to protest
- and to find a solution to the ongoing challenges with the housing of asylum seekers at the Metropole - still.
I also wanted to say a few words about an issue which is ending up in my box quite a lot right now – escooters and ebikes.
The combination of the speed at which these scooters can move and the silence of electric propulsion represent a significant safety challenge, and has led to multiple injuries and now a death.
I also acknowledge that safety groups have identified further risks as riders do not tend to take appropriate precautions. This is particularly true on the Promenade with its varying combinations of shared spaces.
As this mode of transport is a relatively new technology, it is vital to ensure new regulations are introduced to ensure safety for riders and pedestrians alike. It is for this reason that the government has proceeded with a number of regional trials rather than a national rollout of specific eScooter regulations. In my view, this cautious, evidence-based approach is the right one. Those currently purchasing eScooters do so knowing that outside the trial areas they are not road-legal – but enforcement of the law seems sporadic.
Riders must have at least a provisional driving licence, top speeds are limited to 15.5mph, and cannot be ridden on public roads outside the pilot areas.
At a local level, I have recently discussed the police’s approach with the local commanders. They are currently running Operation Propulsion which is seeking to crack down on illegal escooters, over-powered ebikes and other vehicles being used in public that should not be. In particular, they are able to seize items if being used dangerously. There are also patrols at local service and petrol stations to minimise opportunities for fuel supply. The only thing the police cannot do is chase individuals using such vehicles since the police are liable themselves in the event of the individual having an accident – perverse, I wholly agree.
I can confirm that there are no local trial areas so all use on anything other than private land is illegal. There are no known local vendors, so local supply cannot be easily choked off.
I remain highly sceptical of all of this. I was the Minister for Transport Accessiblity, and this issue has been raised by several groups during my time there, particularly those representing individuals with disabilities – especially those with visual or hearing impairments.
In my view these vehicles most certainly do not have any place on pavements or pathways in public spaces. The lack of protection afforded to other road users gives me significant doubts also whether it is appropriate to approve their use on highways also, not least given the speeds achieved are far higher than on most pushbikes.
Escooters are here to say, whether we like it or not. But they should have visible registration plates and compulsory insurance, be banned from pavements, and helmets made compulsory. Other restrictions on e-scooters could include a requirement for two independently controlled braking devices, audible warning signals and bans on tampering with scooters and carrying passengers. This should be extended to private e-bikes as well which share many of the same characteristics, and pose as many problems on the coastal path.
We already know from experience that riders will not self-regulate. We need tighter rules, but we also need those rules enforcing.
Paul Maynard MP