Parliament has now broken for its summer recess. This allows me a welcome opportunity to get out and about in the 200 square miles of this beautiful constituency to work with our many local groups and organisations. My mission is to find out what more I can do in Parliament to allow them to further help us all.
As I have written before, we are fortunate to have so many local groups who support those who need help to meet the challenges in their lives. Since being elected, I have worked with East Sussex’s Care for the Carers group. This amazing organisation provides resources and support for many smaller local organisations. The financial climate for this organisation, and our County Council who fund it, is tough. Our Councillors do a great job but we are a county with lower council tax receipts than those in the Home Counties. We also have more people in need of social care support.
It is this situation which caused me to publicly call, in Parliament and in writing, for Bovis Homes to deliver the new housing which has been long proposed for north Bexhill. With record-low unemployment, we need more homes to allow our businesses to expand and increase council tax receipts. We also need to help young people and families in our area to get on the housing ladder and rise up it. If we do not, they will be lost to towns further afield.
In my last week in Westminster, I was pleased that our new Health Secretary accepted my invite in the Commons Chamber to visit our area and see for himself the challenges we face. With huge funding increases announced for the NHS, I want the pioneering ‘Better Together’ approach championed by our local health and social care leaders to get a good share of this funding.
I was also pleased to see that our teachers will be getting a good pay rise. They have lagged behind for too long. However, schools were concerned that this would have to be funded from existing budgets reserved for the classrooms. The Government has now promised to foot the bulk of the bill from additional funds. This was something I have consistently asked for and, as I said in the House of Commons, I am grateful that the Government listened. It is not just teachers who will benefit. The police and other public sector workers are also getting pay rises. They all do a great job which needs recognising and rewarding.
Of course, Europe continues to attract headlines. Last Friday, I had a crew from BBC Breakfast follow me around as I visited groups and constituents in Hooe. Many took the time to give their views to the cameras. Most agreed that they wanted the Government and EU to get cracking and reach an agreement to end the uncertainty. They also wanted Parliament to stop arguing with itself. It was good to see the constituency and many local faces on the TV the following morning. Delivering this may require compromise from some who voted in the EU referendum. We all have our own personal view on what the EU deal should look like. Some who contact me want the referendum result annulled or ignored. Others want complete separation from the EU. I tend to the latter view in order to make leaving worthwhile. Being half in/half out defeats the exercise.
However, as an MP, I have to deal with what is legislatively possible rather than theoretical. To move forward, it is likely that a Parliament, with no Government majority, will only vote for a deal which is more middle of the road than the radical approach I favour.
From speaking with residents, it seems that many are interested in finding out more about the proposed terms of our EU exit. I have therefore organised some local public meetings for later this month in Bexhill, Battle, and Heathfield. At these meetings I will explain the detail of the Government’s White Paper, where we have got to and what happens next. I hope we can have a good discussion. It is important to me as an MP that every voter is involved in the outcome. Further details of these meetings can be found on my website www.huwmerriman.org.uk.