Recently, I sat down (virtually) with Anchor Hanover’s Chief Executive, Jane Ashcroft to discuss the availability of social housing and housing options for older members of our community. It was fantastic to hear about the options available for those who need extra support, be it just someone to check in once in a while, or staff to support them with their day to day activities and a whole community of neighbours to keep them company.
Our conversation did confirm something that has concerned me for some time, the lack of available and truly affordable housing, not just for older people, but for everyone in our community. I am determined to use my voice to fight for more of the housing our community needs at a price that they can pay in the coming weeks and months.
In the same vein, I am somewhat troubled by the government’s intentions for a new planning system which utilises an algorithm to impose housing targets. I do not believe that it sufficiently accounts for small towns, villages, and rural areas such as those in our constituency. It would be a crime to force so many houses into our area, damaging the small communities and beautiful landscapes that make the constituency what it is. Even worse when these new homes do not necessarily address the types of housing we need. I will be lobbying the government to rethink this strategy. I also encourage anyone who, like me, wants to see amendments to these plans, to respond to the Planning for the Future consultation that can be found on the government’s website.
I am deeply concerned that in the fight against coronavirus, other aspects of mental and physical health have been neglected. This is something I am urging the government to address with haste. As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Health and Social Care, I have led inquiries into rural mental health in the past. Given the additional isolation that many have felt over the past few months, I believe that this is more important than ever.
I am currently undertaking research into access to mental health services and the prevalence of mental health issues in rural areas. I plan to force this on to the government’s agenda. The health and wellbeing of rural communities cannot and will not be forgotten.
Last week, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, visited Exeter to outline the Government’s major expansion of post-18 education and training to level up and prepare workers for the post-Covid economy. Adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification will be offered a free, fully-funded college course – providing them with skills valued by employers, and the opportunity to study at a time and location that suits them.
This offer will be available from April in England and will be paid for through the National Skills Fund and a full list of available courses will be set out shortly. Higher education loans will also be made more flexible, allowing adults and young people to space out their study across their lifetimes, take more high-quality vocational courses in further education colleges and universities, and to support people to retrain for jobs of the future. These new announcements will hopefully play a key part in getting the local economy back to full throttle, following the difficult challenges this year has presented us with.
Finally, the new museum at Newton’s Place opened this weekend and welcomed its first visitors. I very much look forward to visiting in the near future. The fact that it is fully booked for the next 3 weeks is a promising sign!
If you would like to book a surgery call, please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment. As a reminder, like most MPs, I don’t deal with constituent queries or casework on social media. If you have anything you’d like to raise, please call the office or email me – firstname.lastname@example.org