During this week’s Urgent Question in Parliament on the lamentable Govia/GTR rail company, the Minister flagged that the Government would shortly be announcing substantial additional compensation payments for those passengers on affected Northern Rail links.
I reminded him that long-suffering passengers from Eastbourne and Hampden Park stations have also had a bad time since the debacle of Southern’s timetable changes a few months ago. On the morning of the UQ, by coincidence, a constituent contacted me to say their usual one-and-a-half hour journey to London had taken three-and-a-half hours! Not an uncommon occurrence since the timetabling changes were brought in. Consequently, I tried to pin the Rail Minister down to agreeing, at the despatch box, that the additional compensation payments promised to Northern passengers should also be given to users of Southern Rail, as they’ve had to put up with an utterly shambolic service as well. Unfortunately the Minister rejected my proposal, and then had the arrogance to suggest that Southern Rail passengers hadn’t suffered enough to receive the additional payment. Good grief. How much worse does it have to get for local rail passengers before this Conservative government decides to treat them fairly? I will not give up over the issue. Eastbourne deserves better.
A new place for you to visit opened last weekend. It’s by the Wish Tower and is a Memorial to commemorate the 180 or so residents who died during the Second World War, as a result of the severe bombing the town received. It’s a little known fact but Eastbourne was actually one of the most heavily bombed towns outside London and the major conurbations. It was so bad that local children were even evacuated in their droves, 3,300 of them, and the then population of our town dropped by a half. An absolutely astonishing impact. The daughter of one of those who sadly died during the numerous bombing raids, Gillian Rogers, cut the ribbon to the memorial, and our splendid Silver Band were there to entertain us as well as finish off the proceedings with, aptly, the timeless local anthem Sussex By the Sea. Do pop along and take a look. There’s also a Peace Garden which has been planted around the edge and in the fullness of time will mature beautifully. This whole enterprise has been a real labour of love from a few key people, John Boyle, Peter Pyemont, Peter Austin - all Eastbourne stalwarts who have done so much for our town over many years; and ably supported by the fourth trustee, David Bentley. Thanks to them and also to the local companies who gave up so much of their time and materials to make this a reality. Well done all. Eastbourne is a town which has a profound sense of community. We care about each other and we care deeply for our town, its past and its future. It’s one of the many reasons why I love being your MP as much as I do.
I finally secured a meeting with the Parliamentary ombudsman this week to discuss issues around the age changes for women to receive their pensions. I’ve been trying to fix this conversation for months but it appeared a few key people had been ill so hence the delay. Frustrating though and even more so for the many WASPi women both locally and across the UK who want answers. The ombudsman confirmed they were going to be launching a thorough investigation into th e processes implemented by the various governments since the original 1993 Pensions Act, and they’ll be starting with the DWP only next week.
He also confirmed that the key conclusion available to them, if that’s what is found, would be maladministration. And the final report could make specific recommendations about what should be done to address this. Including the possibility of financial compensation. Few people deny the pension age needed to change, as we are all living so much longer, but the poor communication to those women affected from governments of various different political hues ever since the original Act does need challenging. I hope a recommendation for suitable compensation will follow. It’s been a long haul for a lot of these good people and I know many local WASPi women well. I’ll keep pressing on your behalf in Parliament.
Ending on two bits of positive news! This week the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday. I’m sure you’ll all have stories of how important our health service has been to you, and in my own case it stopped me from going blind 35 years ago, which is plenty enough reason to be grateful. Thanks to all those who work within our NHS both locally and beyond. Happy birthday.
Finally, not forgetting our football World Cup win against Colombia earlier in the week. Talk about tense! I’m no expert on the game (by any means) but two things struck me about this England team; they kept calm under some utterly shockingly provocative behaviour by the other team and we won, at last, a penalty shoot-out. What a joyous result.
That’s it folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.