It has been 100 years since the passing of the Representation of People Act 1918 which gave eight million British women the right to vote. It was a privilege to be part of the celebrations in Parliament remembering the heroism of the suffragettes and suffragists who made sacrifices so that we could enjoy the rights we have today.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister delivered on her pledge to protect and build on workers’ rights by publishing the Good Work plan in response to the Matthew Taylor Review that will support businesses to create better, higher paying jobs. Reforms in the plan include a right for all workers, not just zero-hour and agency, to request a more stable contract. This will provide much more financial security for those on flexible contracts.
The Government have launched a £60 million farming productivity fund this week at Dairy-Tech. Farmers can apply online to the Countryside Productivity Small Grant Scheme, requesting a grant between £3,000 and £12,000 towards the costs of farm equipment. More information on applying for a grant can be found at: https://goo.gl/RkLG54.
I had an informative meeting with Sarah Wootton from the Campaign For Dignity in Dying about the country’s assisted dying laws and the huge obstacles – emotional, financial, legal, and logistical – that prevent dying people having choice at the end of their life. As Canada, Australia, and numerous states in the USA update their assisted dying laws to allow people choice at the end of life I believe it is time for a public debate in the UK over the appropriateness of our own laws governing this issue.
In the Chamber on Wednesday, I spoke in favour of the motion to approve the police grants for England and Wales for 2018-19. The increase proposed by our Police Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez will generate vital additional revenue that will be channelled directly into policing priorities. It is estimated £7.2 million will be raised and I am keen to see this spent on tackling cybercrime and criminal gangs within Devon.
The local government finance settlement was also on the agenda in the Chamber. I spoke to welcome the extra £2.2 million social care grant and £7.5 million rural services delivery grant for Devon. I hope to see this money enable better and consistent social care for adults both in their homes and care homes. This extra funding recognises the pressures local authorities are under however, the increase is still not enough to meet the challenges of our area’s ageing population and infrastructure. I also raised my concerns over how local authorities are spending this extra money without effective oversight from Government.
I met with Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards, to continue my lobbying efforts for Devon schools to receive fairer funding. I raised the issue of the new formula not adequately taking into account increasing costs for schools such as the apprenticeship levy and pay rises for teaching staff. Under the new formula, funding to support Devon pupils remains £268 below the national average per pupil. This shows a clear failure to address the inequity within the funding system. I also raised the increasing pressure on the already stretched High Needs Budget from extending the ages supported from 18 year olds up to 26 year olds. I will continue to lobby the Minister and work with DASH and DAPH to ensure these funding issues remain on the agenda.
On Tuesday, I met with Parker Moss and John Shaw from Virgin Care, where we discussed the challenges of administrating rural healthcare between independent NHS providers and the local authorities. It is vital that cooperative integration takes place in order to ensure children’s health and care services are provided effectively in Devon.
My next surgeries will be in Newton Abbot on the 16th and 23rd February at 14:00. Please call 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.