I want to start my column this week by recognising our local students on their A-level, T-level and BTEC results from last week and our GCSE students on their results from yesterday. Congratulations to everyone who got the results they were hoping for.
To those who didn’t get the results they hoped for, it may be a tough few days coming to terms with the news but there still are so many options out there for you. Allow yourself time to consider everything that is available within your grade-range, seek advice from your schools and colleges and talk it over with family and friends. It may be a setback but that is all it is. There is a still world of opportunity available to you. Thank you to all of the staff at our superb local schools and colleges for their hard work helping students achieve their results.
This summer, towns and villages across the constituency have been busy with summer activities. Last Sunday, we celebrated Bexhill Day with events in the town and the previous weekend the Heart of Sidley held their Annual Family Fun Day. A quick look on the Visit1066Country website shows that there is so much to see and do over the summer - family days out, free music events at local pubs, free outdoor cinema at the De La Warr Pavilion, literary festivals, guided walks, craft fairs, open days and car shows. The list is endless. There is much to see and do in our beautiful part of East Sussex. I hope everyone gets some time to enjoy it. I certainly did when I was cycling on the Bexhill seafront last Saturday (despite the wind doing its best to send me in reverse).
Whilst I have managed a few days out and about in the constituency over summer, I have mostly been working on the railways across the country. Whilst Parliament is in recess over summer, I have a full workload as an MP and as the Rail Minister.
One of the local issues I have been working on this month is holding our local water companies to account. The threat of pollution of our bathing waters and waterways is a major concern. If you, like me, have signed up for the Environment Agency pollution alerts and the Surfers Against Sewage alerts, you will have been dismayed by the number of alerts you have received during July and August. However, the alerts are confusing because they point out the additional risk caused by the potential for stormy weather. Many residents confuse this alert for actual discharges.
Poor water quality is not good for local residents, visitors or the town businesses. I have asked both Southern Water and the Environment Agency for the data behind these alerts to see how many resulted in actual sewage releases. I have also asked for an update on the water testing results for Bexhill bathing waters which is being carried out by both organisations. I have a meeting with the Chief Executive of Southern Water next week during which I shall be asking about the company’s progress in identifying sources of pollution entering the sea via the Egerton Stream outlet and their plans to cut the use of CSOs in this area. I will issue a full report of on my website.
Also, on the issue of water, I have been challenging South East Water on their plans to improve their water network. The summer hosepipe ban for East Sussex and Kent which began after a dry June and continued throughout one of the wettest Julys on record, lasted well into August. Other water supply companies were not affected and to me this demonstrates that the water supply infrastructure owned and maintained by South East Water is simply not able to meet demand. I have written to the Chief Executive to ask for detail of their plans to improve the infrastructure and make the system more resilient. I have asked Ofwat how they intend to hold the water company to account.
It is important that our utilities are strong and resilient. Storm Eunice in March 2022 resulted in hundreds of homes without water and power. I have asked UK Power Networks and South East Water for an update on their work to improve the resilience of their power supplies and water pumping stations in the event of power loss. I have also called on SE Water to improve their communications with the local resilience forum, parish, town and district councils to ensure that, in the event of water loss, everyone has easy access to bottled water supplies. I consider there is still much work to be done on this front.
As ever, I will share news and updates with residents on all these issues via the press, social media, my e-newsletters and my website