Back to Westminster this week and I’ve hit the ground running with a number of issues affecting Eastbourne residents.
The first was to do with the government’s flagship new policy to provide 30 hours’ free childcare a week for children between the ages of three and four. This is a good initiative and one I’m wholly supportive of. I was concerned though to receive some representation from a number of child-minders over the summer who said that whilst they supported the programme, they had concerns about the levels of funding provided.
Essentially the Department of Education provides to the county council a pot of money per pupil which is then disbursed. It appears the amount provided is simply not enough to cover the child-minders’ costs. I raised this issue with the Minister and he committed to reviewing the funding. He also flagged that the county council should only be levying seven per cent in administrative fees so this is something I will take up with County Hall. This is a good scheme which could be a game-changer for parents and their children, but we must make sure it is actually feasible.
Another important event for me this week in Westminster was that I had the pleasure of handing in a private members’ bill which I’d co-sponsored with other members of the cross-party APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on State Pension Inequality for Women. It was the Pensions (Review of Women’s Arrangements) (No. 2) Bill which seeks to, “establish a review of pension arrangements” for women affected by changes made by the Pensions Act 1995 and in 2011.
This was something I’d promised to pursue in the General Election so is an issue I will keep pressing the government on. I’ve also just been appointed the Lib Dem Shadow Secretary of State for the DWP so it comes under my broader brief, and I will not allow the government to sweep it under the carpet.
Locally, many of you will know that I have been continuing to chase the statutory authorities over the chemical haze which struck Birling Gap and parts of Eastbourne last Sunday week. What was it and where did it come from?
It appears we still do not know who the culprit was. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency retains the lead and they continue to narrow it down from the 150+ vessels who were in the region at the time. There is another factor in this whole extraordinary event which I will be taking up though. It seemed to me after the event bizarre that none of the relevant statutory authorities had taken a proper sampling of what the haze actually was. At first, as I made enquiries, I assumed it was a basic lack of procedure. Not having the relevant protocol for instance.
This I can now reveal was not the case as there is a protocol; from the Cabinet Office Guidance, and its called STAC (scientific and technical advisory cell) which should be established when such an event occurs. And for some reason it was not!
Apparently the lead agency which should have done this is the Environment Agency so I will be contacting their chief executive to ask why this wasn’t done; after all the noxious haze affected hundreds of people and all us want to know what the chemical make-up was, along with its possible effects. We need answers here, and I will ensure I get them.
Finally, to end on a positive note: I had the pleasure of meeting an inspiring young Eastbourne lad the other day called Connor Adolph. He’s just finished college and is now getting ready to go to university. Connor is disabled (cerebral palsy) which means he’ll always need a wheelchair to get around. As you can imagine there are wheelchairs and there are wheelchairs, so he came to see me to explain how he’s trying to raise money to get an all-singing, all-dancing wheelchair to give him the mobility independence he wants.
Frankly, Connor impressed the hell out of me and I think he will you as well, so if you’d like to support him get his new mean machine, please go online to https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/connor-adolph?utm_id=63
Have a good weekend folks. Hope to see you around town.