One of the joys of Parliament breaking for the summer, in addition to ditching the commute to London, is getting out across the constituency and meeting as many fantastic local people and organisations as I can.
There is much to do over this summer recess. To reduce the carbon footprint, and my waistline, I’m aiming to attempt another tour across the constituency by bicycle. Last summer, I cycled across the 200 square miles visiting businesses I’d been assisting throughout the first part of the pandemic. For this summer, I’ve contacted all of the Parish and Town Councils to see if I can meet the local Councillors who work so hard. I want to listen and to learn about local projects which will rejuvenate communities at this difficult time. We also have many kind residents to thank. These are the people who have done so much for their communities.
One project which is never far from my attention is the state of our local roads. This week, I held a meeting with Highways England, my neighbouring MPs and our Parish Councils who cover the A21 route. We’ve been able to secure a £20million safety package to improve parts of the road. This is not the limit to our ambitions; we want this road dualled to provide a proper link from M25 to coast. This will take time. Until then, there are safety improvements which are urgently needed. When the Government pushed this package back to 2025 to 2030, it is fair to say that I lost my rag with the Minister and Highways England. To be fair, they listened and brought the project forward. We are now consulting with local communities on Highways England’s proposals and I hope residents will get involved. We won’t get everything done but this is a start. For those on the A259 and other parts, you are also in my thoughts as we push for more investment.
This week also acted as a reminder as to the cost from Covid and the lockdown on those who are in advanced years or care for those who are. I had a fantastic visit to the Bexhill Senior Citizens Club and met many of their members. At this friendly club, you can play pool or dominoes, ballroom dance, join art and craft classes or just relax and socialise over a cup of tea. The wonderful volunteers make it a community endeavour. I know that some residents are worried to come back out but this club is the perfect tonic for loneliness. I hope more will feel the warmth which I felt on my visit. If you want a good chuckle, I’m coming back for ballroom lessons!
Visiting the Richmond MHA Care Home in Bexhill, I also reflected on those who have worked so hard in our care homes and have filled the loneliness void of residents and their families. I was proud to open their new Dementia Care Unit. Care Home staff have had to bear a huge burden these past 18 months. They’ve experienced the loss of those they care for. It’s been loss on an unimaginable scale. They’ve held hands and said goodbye knowing that they are taking the place of loved ones who have themselves felt pained by their absence. What an amazing and caring workforce. It was a special moment to open a unit which pointed towards better times. We also got to enjoy a garden party where husbands, wives, children and grandchildren got to hold their loved ones. These are hands which have only previously been allowed to only wave through the window. Love is back. A very moving visit.
The weather has been unkind to us this month. It was with great sadness that I met residents in Heathfield who had lost their ground floors to flooding. At the end of their gardens was a stream which engulfed their properties and left destruction behind. It’s not clear who is responsible. It could be a local authority, public agency or a private owner. My job is to find out who is responsible in order to give them peace of mind that it won’t happen again. I will also help them with the issues around insurance.
Whilst floods and waterways are not within my responsibility, there will be something I can do to help. A visit also helps to express my solidarity and empathy. The job of every elected representative, be they MP or local councillor, is not to just knock on the door and ask for a vote but to knock on the door again when bad times come. That’s when we give residents the service and advocacy which we promised on our leaflets. We are lucky to live in a democracy. Make those of us who get elected by it, work for it.