Yesterday, Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, intervened in the House of Commons debate on the Police Grant Report to demand fairer funding for Suffolk Constabulary.
The Police Grant Report is how Parliament approves the central police funding allocation for each force every financial year. This year the Government is pumping an additional £1.1 billion into policing nationwide with Suffolk receiving up to £9.2 million extra.
While this additional funding is welcome, only £152 is spent per head of population on policing in Suffolk, compared to a national average of £192 per head. And if Suffolk received the national average funding, Suffolk Constabulary’s budget would be increased by nearly £30 million.
Hunt intervened in the speech of fellow Suffolk MP, Peter Aldous, to make clear to the Government that Suffolk should not be perceived as a sleepy county which doesn’t have real issues when it comes to crime. He said that this should be addressed as part of a review to the police funding formula. At present, the police funding formula is opaque, complicated and disproportionately hits rural forces. This includes rural forces which have to police large towns like Ipswich. Ipswich faces many of the same serious crimes more commonly associated with urban areas.
The importance of this debate was underlined for Hunt as he brought to the House’s attention the attack on St Matthew’s street in Ipswich on Saturday night. This is the type of serious crime which Suffolk needs resources to help prevent and solve.
In a further intervention, Hunt was also clear that extra funding was only half the solution to safer streets. The police must also have the right priorities when tackling crime. Hunt said: “the police should spend far less time hounding members of the public for what they may or may not think on societal issues, such as in the case of Harry Miller and Humberside police, and far more time taking the side of the law-abiding majority and cracking down on the activities of Extinction Rebellion activists that we saw in Cambridge last week”.
Hunt was referring to the case of Harry Miller who had police turn up at his place of work to “check his thinking” for his tweets online about transgenderism. He was told his tweets would be recorded as a “non-crime hate incident” even though he had not committed a crime. The police’s initiative in this case stands in stark contrast to the police’s inaction on Extinction Rebellion activists who have been able to shut down cities with near impunity.
Following his interventions yesterday Tom said:
“It is with immense sadness that we have now learned that the man fighting for his life after being attacked on St Matthew’s Street has now died. I raised this incident in Parliament as it really underlines the importance of getting better funding for our police and getting more police out on the streets.
“I welcome this Government’s commitment to increasing police funding, including the £700 million for 6,000 new police officers. Yet this is also an example of how Suffolk goes under-resourced.
“My understanding is that Suffolk will only get 54 of the 6,000 extra officers despite the fact that Suffolk has the third lowest staffing numbers relative to population when compared to all other forces. The importance of fair funding is why I intervened in Parliament, alongside other Suffolk MPs, to put the case to the Government that our County’s police need more resources.
“Ultimately, the police funding formula needs to be reviewed as it disadvantages rural forces. This includes rural forces which cover large towns like Ipswich and which deal with serious crimes more commonly associated with urban areas, like the St Matthew’s Street attack on Saturday night.
“I was also clear in Parliament that additional funding is only one part of making our streets safer. We must allow the police to prioritise protecting law-abiding people and solving real crimes. The resources we give them should not be spent reporting people for non-crime hate incidents because they happen to hold different views on societal issues.
“We have already seen fringe elements in our politics use the police to try to besmirch those that just happen to disagree with them. This must be avoided at all costs if we are truly to win public support in our efforts on law and order.”
Yesterday I had the pleasure to be the guest on the BBC Radio Suffolk Lesley Dolphin show. During my interview I discussed a range of topics including my first week in Parliament, opportunities for people with special educational needs, closures to the Orwell Bridge and long term fixes to our rail network. You can listen to the full interview below.
Today I met with Caroline and Jonathan from boots Ipswich to discuss the recently launched NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS).
In the first 10 weeks of the NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), a total of 114,275 patients with minor illnesses, or those who urgently needed medicines, were directed from NHS 111 to a consultation with their local pharmacist.
The scheme, which launched last October, has already helped to relieve pressure on the wider NHS, including GP surgeries, by connecting patients with community pharmacists.
The pharmacy first approach makes life easier for patients and will help reduce pressure in the NHS. Patients with minor illnesses assessed closer to home, saving them unnecessary trips to A&E or their local GP surgery, and helping people get the care and advice they need quicker. We want every patient with a minor illness to think ‘pharmacy first’.
The government confirmed the consultation service is expected to expand to referrals from general practice by the end of 2020, subject to successful evaluation of pilots.
Tom Hunt MP – “I am disappointed that the public consultation launched today indicates that the new Orthopaedic Centre for elective surgeries will not be based in Ipswich. Since the merger with Colchester Hospital there have been some positive developments; most notably that a brand new £35 million state of the art Accident and Emergency department will open its doors to Ipswich residents in 2022.
In my second speech in Parliament, I made it clear that I would take on a “watchdog” role to ensure that Ipswich benefits as much as possible from the merger with Colchester Hospital. I said that if it’s the case that the Orthopaedic centre is based in Colchester then it’s imperative that there is not a negative impact on Ipswich. Our hospital currently has a first class reputation and service when it comes to orthopaedic surgery. However, I do have concerns that the proposed changes could negatively impact the quality of this work; concerns which need to be addressed during the consultation.
I appreciate that assurances have been made that all appointments for Ipswich residents, other than the actual surgery, will take place at Ipswich Hospital and that any emergency surgery will continue to take place at Ipswich Hospital too. What is unclear is how the immediate post-operative care at Colchester Hospital will differ to the experience that patients have currently.
The reality is that many people in Ipswich are worried that the merger with Colchester Hospital could start to negatively affect our hospital. It is imperative that first class surgeons continue to choose Ipswich Hospital as a place they want to be based. It is early days when it comes to fully assessing the merger of Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals although there have clearly been some teething problems.
Following my speech in Parliament I have held discussions with a Health Minister and have invited him to meet me in Ipswich to discuss these matters.
When it comes to the interests of Ipswich residents, I will always speak directly to make sure we get the support and services that people expect. I know how important our hospital is for the town and I will do everything as the MP to support it. The Government is well aware of my determination on this issue and I look forward to welcoming the minister to Ipswich very soon.”
Today (12/02/2020) Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, gave a speech in the Westminster Hall debate on leaseholders and cladding following numerous calls for help from residents of St Francis Tower in Ipswich. He pledged to fight like a lion to get the Government to step in and save leaseholders from the prospect of costs of over £20,000 each for cladding replacement and fire safety works.
The issues around cladding at St Francis Tower was raised in one of Tom’s first surgeries with constituents as a newly elected MP. In that meeting and since, residents of the Tower have been in contact with him, detailing the great frustration and uncertainty they are still experiencing since the Grenfell tragedy in 2017 set off alarm bells about St Francis Tower’s cladding.
Tom plainly set out the issues which have made residents feel “trapped” to the Government in his speech. In respect to the huge costs faced by leaseholders to make the block safe, Tom made it clear that it must be the freeholders who did the dangerous refurbishment, not the leaseholders, who must take responsibility for the cost. While the freeholders are chased, the Government should expand its £200 million scheme for the removal of ACM cladding (the type on Grenfell tower) to include the just as dangerous ACM cladding which was on St Francis Tower. Tom said: “There is absolutely no logical reason why [residents of St Francis Tower] should be treated in any different way to those who live in properties where the cladding is ACM.” This is a crucial point of fairness for residents of St Francis Tower.
Tom also stressed the poor communication from Block Management, the company managing the building, to his constituents who live there. Hunt said Block Management’s communication has almost served to inflame residents’ anxieties and tensions rather than soothe them. This has compounded their ordeal.
Hunt conveyed the distress this ongoing issue has caused the residents of St Francis Tower. He told Westminster Hall how leaseholders had seen the price of their properties collapse and how the bill they are being told to pay is about a third of the cost of the properties themselves. Tom has heard from constituents who have savings and investments tied up in the flats and who are now unable to move home, get a return on their investment, or cash in their savings. Many of them are stuck, not just financially but also emotionally.
Following his speech, Tom said:
“Over 100 of my constituents live in St Francis Tower and they have had this issue hanging over their head for far too long. It’s clearly a process which has been emotionally and financially draining for them and that’s why I called on the Government today to step in. Money should be made available for the replacement of cladding of the type found on St Francis Tower on the same basis that money is available to replace the type of cladding that was on Grenfell Tower – especially given it’s just as dangerous.”
“This is what needs to happen in the short-term to provide residents with some much needed certainty but in the long-term I encourage the Government to track down the freeholders responsible for the dangerous refurbishments to recoup the cost. These are the people who were supposed to have knowledge of the issue and who should have obeyed the regulations at the time – not the leaseholders. It’s unjustifiable that it is now on leaseholders to pay the huge costs caused by this catalogue of errors which is entirely not their fault.
“I will continue my close contact with St Francis Tower residents and will not stop raising this issue with Government. I stand by them in demanding clearer communication from Block Management and resolving a situation where one of their most valuable assets is completely frozen.”
I have just posted off a letter to Highways England regarding the current situation with the Orwell Bridge, I have sent a copy of my letter to the Transport Secretary. This follows the recent publication of the report into the Orwell Bridge by Highways England and recent closures. Though on the one hand its good to see that this time next year there will likely be no more wind related closures of the Orwell Bridge because of the new speed restriction, it is frustrating that it will likely take an extended period of time for these new measures to be introduced, meaning that in the short term there will be no relief.
I do not believe that Highways England have embraced this issue with the urgency required. Closures of the bridge cause major disruption for my constituents and taking 14 months to produce the study was unacceptable. You can understand that when Highways England massively overrun on the time they said it would take to produce the report, that many of us are concerned that Highways England will take a long time to introduce the measures outlined in the study. In my letter I have been clear that I will be monitoring the situation closely and would like to have regular meeting to check progress. Some of the contents of the report were encouraging but we need quick action, not more dithering and delay. The reality is that the wind this weekend was so strong that even with a reduce speed limit this weekend closure may have been necessary.
Not all closures of the wind are linked to the strength of the wind and many other factors connected to the Bridge clearly need to be explored. Its also very frustrating to be told that introducing a 40mph speed limit is the solution when this could have been done years ago and how much disruption and damage to the local economy could have been avoided?
A lot of people have written into me about pubs and their concerns that the current tax regime doesn’t allow our local pubs to thrive. I’ve had some of my best moments in Ipswich at our pubs and I share their concerns that high beer duty and business rates are causing pubs to struggle and in some cases even shut down.
I recently represented this view in Parliament including the comment of one landlord I spoke to who said he felt more like a tax collector than a small business owner.
I’ve called on the Government to get behind landlords and pubs in the next budget as the current system does not work.
Pubs employ around 1,500 people in Ipswich and are great venues for the community to come together over a drink – jobs, landlords and community must be at the heart of reform.
Good visit to the University of Suffolk last week. I was pleased to be able to meet new nursing students who have just started their courses. We are fortunate to have such a good nursing school at the University and I believe that is partly down to the Vice-Chancellor who herself has a nursing background.
There are exciting plans to expand the nursing school over the coming years and part of the reason for this is to support our Hospital.
For my weekly column this week I have written about my appointment to the Education Select Committee and how I intend to use my position on the Committee to benefit both my constituents and those with special educational needs across the country.
Very pleased to announce that yesterday it was confirmed that I’ve secured a place on the House of Commons Education Select Committee. The Committee is composed of 11 MPs from a number of different parties and is responsible for holding to account the Department for Education and other associated organisations such as Ofsted. It was a great honour to have been elected to serve on the committee.
As many of you know, I’m very passionate about working to ensure that all children regardless of special educational needs they may have is given every opportunity to achieve their full potential. I also feel that my responsibilities on this committee sit comfortably with my primary responsibility which is serving my constituents. I know how important education is an issue for thousands of my constituents and hopefully this gives me a platform to promote positive change.