Reporting back from Dartford and Westminster - now reaching over 5,000 people in the local area
Welcome to my latest newsletter.
Urgent Treatment Centre Decision
As you may have seen in previous bulletins, a 12-week consultation has been taking place on where to site the new NHS Urgent Treatment Centre.
The new centre is to treat illnesses and/or injuries that are not life-threatening but do need an assessment or treatment on the same day.
The first of the two options proposed in the consultation was to move the services at White Horse Walk-in Centre at Fleet Health Campus, to join Minor Injuries at Gravesham Community Hospital. The second was to relocate both of those services to a new Urgent Treatment Centre at Darent Valley Hospital to run alongside the current A&E Department.
I had serious concerns as to how Darent Valley Hospital would cope with more patients using its facilities and made my concerns known to the CCG in person and via their consultation.
16,500 responses to the consultation were submitted with findings showing that 80% favoured Gravesham Community Hospital as the location for the new UTC, compared with 5% who thought it should be based at Darent Valley Hospital.
The CCG has therefore decided to recommend two linked UTCs, one at Gravesend Community Hospital and one at A&E at Darent Valley Hospital, in order to mitigate the concerns raised by local people and stakeholders.
Each month I like to feature a local business, large or small and this month's is Efes Dartford which is a Turkish restaurant based in Dartford High Street.
Efes Dartford is part of the Efes Restaurants Group which was founded by Kazim Akkus, who opened his first restaurant in 1974 and continues to oversee and work in the business now.
Efes Dartford opened in March 2018 and is one of five Efes restaurants located in London and Kent, with two more opening soon. It is owned by Jemal Akkus, the son of the founder, Kazim, who decided he wanted to carry on his father's legacy.
Efes prides itself on authentic Turkish cuisine and believes in using only the freshest quality ingredients on a charcoal grill.
In 2019, Efes Dartford was nominated by the public for a Dartford Business Award as their favourite local business which delivers an exemplary service every time, for which the business received a commendation.
If you would like to find out more information about Efes Dartford, please click on the link below.
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EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
I am delighted to report this Bill has now completed Third Reading and has gone to the Lords where it started Committee Stage on 14th January.
The Bill implements the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the Prime Minister.
New clause 4 was tabled by the Leader of the Opposition in an attempt to force the Government to extend the implementation period if a deal has not been agreed with the EU by 15th June. The new clause would also give Parliament a vote on any such extension. Clause 36 was also tabled and was similar to Clause 4 but it would do this without any parliamentary vote.
Both of these clauses were debated in the House of Commons on 7th January and subsequently defeated.
I contributed to this debate and if you would like to view this, please click on the photo below.
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Debate on EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Business of the House
I recently asked the Leader of the House of Commons if a debate could be scheduled as soon as possible to discuss the safety of British tourists in Cyprus.
This follows the treatment of the 19-year-old British National in Ayia Napa who was convicted of making a false allegation of rape and the failures of the judicial process there. This followed the failure of the judicial system in Cyprus to bring to justice the killers of Dartfordian, George Low, who was murdered in the same town in 2016.
To view my question and the Leader of the House's response, please click on the photo below.
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Business of the House debate
All Party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group
I have been appointed as vice chairman of The All Party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group (APDAWG) which was set up in 2017 to improve the health and welfare of the UK's dogs and dog owners.
It was founded by Marc Abraham or 'Marc the vet' as he is also known. Marc was instrumental in the campaign to ban the commercial third-party trade in puppies and kittens, making all breeders accountable and providing transparency for prospective puppy/kitten buyers. This has led to legislation known as 'Lucy's Law' which comes into effect on 6 April 2020 and means anyone looking for a puppy or kitten must deal directly with the breeder or rescue centre.
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Housing, Communities and Local Government Debate
I asked a question in the above debate on anti-semitism. To hear this and the Minister's response, please click on the photo.
I was delighted to meet with Refocus, a local charity run by husband and wife team Lennox and Bali Rodgers. The charity was founded in April 2005 and focuses on diverting young people away from crime.
Refocus works with young people identified as being at risk of involvement in criminality. The team do this by going into schools and providing workshops to students highlighting the realities of becoming involved in crime. These are geared towards showing the risks that County Lines presents to young people and dealing with issues such as drugs, grooming, knives and money laundering. This work also involves going into prisons such as Swaleside or Chelmsford to better understand the consequences of offending.
Lennox himself has spent time in prison and on release began working with gangs in South-East London to challenge their attitudes and criminal behaviour. He has written a book "Breaking Better" which is a fascinating account of his own life. He has also appeared on TV to talk about his own experiences and the need to divert young people away from crime. Bali has worked in the substance misuse field for 20 years, having previously worked for the NHS.
Refocus is now joining forces with other organisations as part of the Safer Communities Alliance. As a charity, it relies on donations and volunteers to support its work.
More information about Refocus can be found by clicking on the link below.
At a recent meeting with Chris Heaton-Harris MP, the Minister of State for Transport, he updated Kent MPs on the plans to remove Operation Brock.
He told us that, following the Government's success in securing a majority for its new deal with the EU, Highways England has agreed with the Kent Resilience Forum that work to remove the barrier on the M20 can start.
Since 14th January, the London-bound carriageway of the M20 will be closed between junctions 9 and 7 from 22:00 until 06:00 every night for 16 nights. A clearly signed diversion will be in place while the works are taking place and Highways England aim to open the road as early as possible every morning.
Thai Pongal is a multi-day harvest festival of Sri Lanka and South India, particularly in the Tamil community.
It is dedicated to the Sun God, the Surya, and celebrates the end of winter solstice. To mark the festival a sweet dish is prepared of rice boiled in milk with raw sugar.
It was a pleasure to join some of those from the Tamil community in Dartford to mark this festival in the House of Commons.
Restoration of Big Ben
Bell weighs 13.5 tons.
Pendulum is 14 ft long.
Swing takes 2 seconds.
Scaffolding weighs 800 tons.
Height is 315 ft.
Steps number 334.
Minute hands are 14 ft long.
Bell is 9 inches thick.
Chimes can be heard 5 miles away.
There are 3 clockmakers/keepers.
Budget for repair works is £45 million.
2,567 cast iron roof tiles restored.
160th anniversary of the Great Bell was on 11 July 2019.
Restoration project is due for completion in 2021.
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