Hello everyone and may I wish you all a Happy New Year!
2023 was tough for many, with inflation and cost-of-living pressures having a severe impact upon families across the country. Ongoing conflict in Europe and the Middle East has added to growing anxieties and my thoughts remain with all of those affected and their loved ones. However, as we greet the New Year, I look ahead to what lies in store in 2024.
January promises to be a busy month and the hard work has already started. On Wednesday 3rd January, my Kent MP colleagues and I welcomed the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, the Rt Hon Victoria Atkins MP, to Maidstone Hospital to open Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust’s Community Diagnostic Centre (CDC) Phase 2. This is fantastic news for our area, as the CDC is already dramatically reducing waiting times for patients needing elective diagnostics, particularly CT and MRI scans.
Saturday 6th January also looks to be a significant day both locally and nationally as the Chancellor’s move to cut 2p off National Insurance comes into force. Now that inflation has been halved, this tax cut will see millions of working people hundreds of pounds better off this year, putting cash into their pockets and boosting the economy. On the same day, Maidstone United will play their third-round FA cup tie against Stevenage, a current League One highflyer, in the hope of reaching the fourth round for the very first time. Come on you Stones!
On January 12th and 26th, I will be hosting two more of my Community Outreach Surgeries, this time in North Ward and Bridge Ward respectively. I have been delighted with the strong attendances at these surgeries and it is always an enormous pleasure to meet constituents and discuss their concerns in person. If you have an issue that you would like to raise with me, please do contact my office for an appointment.
Local elections will take place on Thursday 2nd May and whilst just one third of the seats in Tunbridge Wells are being contested, Maidstone Borough Council has ushered in a welcome change. For the first time since 2002 all seats will be contested and held for a four-year period. In addition to beating voter fatigue, the move has saved an estimated £275,000 of taxpayers’ money too. I look forward to working with all local Councillors, both before and after May, to help them deliver the very best Council services for my constituents.
After a huge year of international sport in 2023 this summer will be jam-packed with top level events once again. At Euro 2024 in June and July, let’s hope the men's England football team can repeat the success of the Lionesses (and hometown superstar Alessia Russo), who won the Women’s European Championship in 2022. On July 26th the Paris Olympics are reported to be presenting an opening ceremony like no other – can’t wait. I will be cheering on team GB right through to the closing ceremony of the Paralympics on September 8th and I wish our athletes every success.
Although there is much speculation as to the precise timing, we know that there will be a general election in 2024 and I am delighted to have been selected to stand for the new Maidstone and Malling seat. Revised boundary changes will come into force and the more rural parts of my current constituency are set to become part of a new constituency, the Weald of Kent. Over the last 16 years since becoming the candidate, and then the MP for Maidstone & The Weald, I have made many friends here. It has been a privilege and an honour to represent all of my constituents and campaign alongside them on so many issues; be it tackling rural crime, combatting anti-social behaviour, battling inappropriate housing plans or seeking to redress inadequate provision of non-selective education in the Cranbrook area.
To those of you who will be in the Weald of Kent constituency after the next election, I want to reassure you that until that time, I steadfastly remain as your MP and would remind you that I am always here if you need my help or assistance at any time.
Clearly, there is plenty to look forward to in 2024 and much work to be done. I am as committed as ever to my plan for our constituency;
- Protecting our green spaces from inappropriate housing developments and safeguarding our precious environment.
- Improving our NHS, making it easier to get appointments with GPs and dentists, and cutting waiting times at hospitals.
- Investing in our schools - ensuring they get the money they need for all of our children to have a first class education.
- Supporting local businesses to help them flourish and create apprenticeships and jobs for local people.
- Working with local police teams to increase uniformed presence in our towns and villages, to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.
- Battling for better road, rail and bus transport.
My office is open every weekday and I will also be hosting fortnightly surgeries throughout the constituency in the coming months. My team and I are here for you if you need help, advice or assistance in the weeks and months ahead and I look forward to seeing you, out and about in Maidstone & The Weald, in the coming months.