Hampshire is an incredibly special place where community is valued and nurtured which is why I have loved living here for the last 33 years, firstly in Winchester and then in Southsea. My husband was born and brought up in Petersfield (we got married in Bishop's Waltham) and my parents moved to the Meon Valley in 1986 following a lifetime of serving the country abroad in the British Army and Foreign Office.
When I was the MP for Portsmouth South, I was determined to encourage an active debate between all people regardless of politics about how we can make our community better year on year. I will continue to do this as the candidate in Meon Valley
Safety in our community
Crime is going down but it doesn’t always feel that way when you read the papers, or are a victim of crime yourself. My family and I were burgled in Southsea while we slept and we know the consequences of feeling unsafe in your own home. We do need more visible policing, and I support the hard work of the Neighbourhood Policing teams and the Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and Community Wardens who know their areas and trouble spots well. We must ensure that our high streets and residential areas do not become areas of anti-social behaviour in the evenings and people feel safe to go out in the evenings. Our local businesses must be protected from shoplifters and break-ins.
There is an increasing amount of rural crime in Hampshire and people are reporting that they do not feel safe at night in some areas. Some people on our country roads such as the A32 are driving too fast especially on noisy motorbikes. I heard about some of these issues when I worked with the Police and Crime Commissioner and local police and see the problems first hand when I travel around Hampshire.
I have campaigned for more victim support, sometimes it is not in the immediate aftermath of a crime that you need help but further down the line. Our police force and community workers do an excellent job and we must make sure that it is targeted effectively.
I am also delighted to have taken part in legislation to tackle so-called "legal highs". These are largely untested drugs and people do not know what substances they contain. They can be extremely dangerous and can lead to death and psychiatric problems. All the shops selling these lethal highs are now shut in Portsmouth and we still have work to do to stop them being sold illegally. I am now increasingly concerned about County Lines, the drug cartels that are spreading around our county and exploiting vulnerable and young people to work for them. The Government has just put in more money to tackle this and we need to work hard to protect our young people.
Cyber crime is an increasing problem. When I was an MP, I set up an all party parliamentary group to look at the issues of cyber security and I am delighted that the Government is taking this seriously with more funding going into this. We are lucky to have experts in Hampshire including the head of the Special Constabulary, Tom Haye, leading the way nationally on this.
Education keeps young people safe
I was a governor of Milton Park Primary School for 7 years and am now a trustee of Salterns Academy Trust which is responsible for Admiral Lord Nelson School and Trafalgar School, both secondary schools. Having worked as a lay school inspector for Ofsted, I am passionate about education and believe that a good education is key to everybody’s life chances. If we get the education system right, children will be equipped for the career that they chose and we need to build resilience in our schools and outside to help prevent young people from being exploited and involved in criminal activity. Many offenders have poor educational standards or were disengaged from education at an early age which is why I am so keen to ensure that prisoners are educated and reskilled during their sentences so they can become productive when they are released and less likely to reoffend.
I am now on the national Board of the National Citizens Service, NCS. So far, nearly 600,000 young people have taken part since 2010 and it has been life changing for many of them. You can find out more about NCS at www.ncsyes.co.uk
Following the work that I did on the Homelessness Reduction Bill when I was in Parliament and my seminar on homelessness in Portsmouth in 2017, I am pleased that we have now developed the website and app Street Support so that people can find support for those on the streets or at threat of becoming homeless. You can find it at www.streetsupport.net