Read my latest update
January is always a consistently busy months – everything people feel they can’t fit in around Christmas gets shunted into that empty diary space marked “January” only it is not empty for very long.
So what follows will be my usual download of what I have done locally. Followers on Facebook (in steep decline these days) or Instagram (going from strength to strength, follow me @paulmaynardmp and join the 1837 other followers who see me in real time) will already note how much goes on day to day.
So I was especially pleased to see one comment on Facebook complaining that I do ‘too many visits’ and need to do some ‘proper work’. Leaving aside that the role of an MP is so nebulous that each of us makes of it what they will, I am not sure there is much appetite for a live-stream of me at my desk typing. But it is perhaps worth explaining something which is self-evident to me but maybe not others that part of my job is meeting constituents and local groups, often at their request, to discuss their concerns, take up actions on their behalf, and give support where asked for.
So here’s my selection of recent events – and what they actually led to beyond just the event itself:
* The 40th Anniversary of the loss of police officers Angela Bradley, Gordon Connolly, Colin Morrison, as well as member of the public Alistair Anthony, in the tragic drownings at Gynn Square was unveiled at the dedicated memorial. As anyone living locally will know, these events made a deep and long impression on the town, born out by the hundreds who turned up on the day. The news coverage put me in touch with the ongoing ‘Medals for Heroes’ ([link removed]) campaign spearheaded by the Police Federation and Bryn Hughes, the father of PC Nicola Hughes – who was killed in 2012 in Greater Manchester – something I am now lending my support to.
* I have also been using my powers to get Ministers to intervene to try and resolve what has become something of an impasse in my joint efforts with Thornton Medical Centre to enable their expansion. The Chief Executive of the new Integrated Care Board ‘got’ invited to a meeting with the Minister, and a pathway to expansion is now much clearer. I fear the new Chief Executive may be sick of hearing from me given my current volume of issues raised, from dentistry to ear syringing to HRT availability.
* My meeting with the secretary of the group of Blackpool’s driving instructors brought the disturbing news that one side-effect of the DWP’s exit from Warbreck House is that the driving test centre also has to close. Having swung into action, pressure on DVSA by me has led to confirmation that the move to Kirkham is only temporary whilst they find a new location in Blackpool. The Council are trying to help, thought suggest that the requirement for an indoor office location with multiple parking spaces is a challenge to find locally raises my eyebrows.
* On Warbreck House more generally, I’ve been mithering the DWP Estates Minister Mims Davies with plenty of queries as to why Council offers of office space in the town centre were not taken up, why there is no correlation over plans to move several hundred more staff than there are parking spaces to Hesketh House In Fleetwood, and why a more flexible approach to home working pending the completion of the town centre Civil Service Hub can’t be contemplated. We’re seeing a shift, and the Minister is sympathetic, but that old favourite ‘middle management’ need persuading.
* Poor old Mims has been getting it in the ear off me on plenty of issues this month, including the rather clumsy communications around the raising of the state pension age. My favourite statistic of the month is that the old age dependency ratio (OADR) currently shows 28 people over 65 for every 100 of working age, and some of the latter are probably still studying. This ratio will rise to almost half by 2050. Its clearly not a sustainable situation, but I think we need to be more creative in looking at how we can make taking a pension early on health grounds a more flexible reality, and avoid having to battle the benefits system to claim ESA or PIP. Equally, we should remember that the State Pension Age started out at 70 when male life expectancy was just 51!
* Football league clubs from across the North West, including Blackpool and Fleetwood, gathered in Westminster ahead of the publication of the Government’s review into football governance. Blackpool remains an object lesson in why we need improvements, and the independence of any regulator is key, as is ensuring that the way payments flow downwards from the Premier League. In an area where there are as many demands as there are people expressing them, I fear some may be disappointed by the outcome, but optimistic we will get fundamental change.
* Ministerial visits have included Steve Barclay visiting the Vic to see their Integrated Care Hub in action. This locates social care staff from Councils into the heart of the hospital to better plan discharges, and is having a really beneficial effect to such an extent it is becoming an exemplar the PM wants the rest of the NHS to follow.
* I also joined Roads Minister Richard Holden at the A585 works compound to see progress as we near completion. We explored just how robust their modelling has been as I sought to reflect concerns over how the switch from two-lane to single-lane might negate benefits (it won’t, not least as the high proportion of local traffic currently using the A585 will take other routes) and whether current housing developments mean it is already insufficient (the modelling took into account all land allocated for housing, even if not built on yet). Driving on the first section of it is within touching distance …
* A quick drop in to the community grocery at King’s Church in Greenlands – the pantry model it offers as an alternative to the food bank model is one I have been studying in some depth for the report I am drawing up with the Trussell Trust on moving on from emergency food aid. Pantries offer a very different experience, with goods on offer cheaply, and greater potential for wrap-around support – and it has proven very popular.
* I presented a Bill to the House of Commons calling for the House of Lords to be moved to the Winter Gardens. Frivolous, you may think, but it got plenty of media coverage nationwide, and allowed me to make the more important argument that those who make the laws should be as close to possible to those who suffer the consequences, and not dwell in ivory towers.
Paul Maynard MP
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