This week brought the end of the budget debate and it was voted on Tuesday and passed. There is still work to do on funding childcare, which I hope the Education Select Committee’s inquiry will help with.
The opposition only spoke on the lifetime allowance which has gone down well with senior public servants including doctors, air traffic controllers, senior teachers and police officers as well as military. I hope that they will continue to work in the public sector as we need their experience as well as those in the private sector in senior roles.
There was good news on the economic front showing the UK has grown faster than the EU and G7 since 2010 and I hope that we will be able to build on that so everyone feels the benefits. The rise in inflation was disappointing but it will start falling with energy prices going down. The government has come to a pay agreement with nurses, railway workers and teachers. It is disappointing that junior doctors are continuing their industrial action. A 35% increase is unaffordable
The Centre for Social Justice report ‘Lost and Not Found' was published on Wednesday. I wrote the foreword to it as I am very concerned about the 140,000 children who are severely absent from school. That means that they are out of school more often than attending school and that does not necessarily include the ones that we don’t know about at all.
I have been working on my Bill to set up a register of those children not in school, including home educated ones and I will be presenting it in May. I hear that the government is supportive so I hope it will be put into law fairly quickly. It could make a difference to some very neglected children. I spoke about this on Radio 5 Live on Thursday.
World Down Syndrome Day was on Tuesday and I hosted families to have a photo outside No 10 and a reception later where I talked about the Act that I co-sponsored to give people with Down Syndrome the recognition for services that they need from health, education, employment and local authorities.
It was a very jolly event with some excellent speeches from those who have Down Syndrome. However they still struggle to find good jobs. Florence told us that she has four part time jobs but would like a full time one.
Big thank you to constituents Ken and Rachael Ross who set up the Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association. It spreads its help and knowledge far wider than Portsmouth, it pushed for the Act and organised all the celebrations this week.
I had an interesting meeting with Breaking the Silence. This group is formed of an increasing number of ex-Israeli Defence Force personnel who want to stop the occupation and live in peace because of the things that they had seen and done. One of them talked about how as a 21-year-old, he had complete control over the movement of Palestinians in an area, for example, whether they needed to go to hospital, see relations in another area.
We must work out a solution and I am afraid the present Israeli government is not encouraging the peace process. As a backbench MP I will continue to talk about issues which I feel passionate about and which may not be government policy although I can try to change minds. It was the main reason why I left my PPS role at DWP
We got good news this week for Waterlooville with £25,000 for CCTV cameras in the town centre. The money comes from the Shared Prosperity fund administered by the Department of Levelling Up and it comes from a larger sum being allocated to Havant council.
I have been badgering the council for this particularly for Wellington Way but traders facing the car park are also having issues with anti-social behaviour near the Waitrose building. The best news is there will be a Waterlooville Town Centre and Regeneration Manager starting in April. They will make a huge difference and I hope that we will be able to put a bid in soon to get some money for redevelopment of the areas that the council actually owns.
It is a long and tortuous process changing a town centre and very frustrating as I have a vision of what it could be like. There are signs of life with new tenants in shops, the food in the Little Bay Eatery in the High Street was delicious and packed out when I was there.
Last week’s Environment forum in Wickham was well attended although it became water focused. I asked how many people thought I had voted to put sewage in our rivers and seas and was very disappointed that about 10 people put their hands up. They obviously don’t receive my newsletters! I am concerned as it is in Lib Dem literature and it is a lie so, please don’t be misled by anything that appears on their leaflets.
I voted for a far better amendment which will stop any overflows into our rivers and will stop it coming back up into our houses in the meantime.
I was very busy this week and was surprised that journalists kept coming up and asking me what I thought of Boris Johnson. I am afraid I was too busy to watch the Standards Committee as are most MPs. I will read the Committee’s report carefully when it comes out.
In the meantime, I am out and about this evening and weekend campaigning for our amazing candidates. All three councils that I cover have local elections so I am trying to support all of them.