Following my visit to the Hawthorn Drive GP surgery, I’ve now written to the Health Secretary calling for fairer funding for GP surgeries in Ipswich. At the moment the national funding formula doesn’t take into account local pockets of deprivation when working out how much money GP surgeries should get. Yet this is a significant reasons why Hawthorn Drive and a number of other GP surgeries see more people who are living with mental illness and other conditions. This has contributed to the funding pressure the Hawthorn Drive practice is under and this pressure will only get greater with an aging demographic in Chantry.
I’ve called on the Health Secretary to look at increasing funding for the Hawthorn Drive Surgery in particular but also GP services across Ipswich which are losing out in this way. The second lockdown will only increase the pressure in areas like mental health and it mustn’t be areas with higher disadvantage which get left behind.
Very honoured to have laid a wreath at this mornings Remembrance Sunday service on Christchurch Park. A much scaled back socially distanced event but an extremely poignant one nonetheless. Well done to the Suffolk Royal British Legion and all those involved in putting today’s service together. Very strange the national anthem being played and not being able to sing but I’m glad that this Sunday like every other Sunday we were able to mark the occasion. I was pleased to see that many others were able to join us but in a safe way. I very much hope and believe that this time next year the park will again be filled with thousands people from across Town wanting to pay their respects. We must never forget the extraordinary sacrifice made by those who have given their lives for our country and the liberties and freedoms and are so intrinsic to who we are.
Spoke in Parliament on Wednesday about PC Andrew Harper and the need for mandatory life sentences for those found guilty of killing police officers. This is what the campaign led by PC Harper’s widow, Lissie, is calling for. I had planned to meet Lissie last month although unfortunately I wasn’t able to in the end because of my self-isolation. But of course this campaign has my full backing.
The three thugs who killed PC Harper brutally dragged him behind their car for over a mile but inexplicably were only found guilty of manslaughter. All of 3 of them will most likely be let out of prison with the vast majority of their life ahead of them despite ending the life of a young police officer and leaving his family with a wound that will never fully heal.
I was one of the 22 Conservative MPs who wrote the Attorney General earlier this year calling on her to review the pitiful sentences of the men who killed PC Harper, and I won’t stop raising it. His family deserves justice, but there also needs to be a complete confidence among the public that there will be no tolerance for those who harm the police officers who keep us safe.
This week I asked the Minister for Policing directly about getting robust punishments in place for those individuals who try to use Covid-19 as a weapon by spitting and coughing at police officers. Unfortunately we have seen reports of this despicable crime in Ipswich and around the country during this pandemic. And back in April I called in the House of Commons for the full force of the law to come down on anyone found guilty of assaulting our police officers in this heinous way, when they’re going above and beyond to keep us safe. I’ve also stressed the need to clamp down on this crime with the Government through written questions.
It was good to hear in the Minister’s response that the Government is seriously focusing in on this issue with prison sentences being handed out and that new laws are in the pipeline that will double the maximum sentence for assaults on emergency service workers. Spitting at police officers is a disgusting crime at the best of times, but during Covid-19 it’s particularly aggravating potentially with severe consequences for officers’ physical and mental health. I’ll be making the case that these new laws on tougher sentencing should be brought forward as soon as possible.
On Monday I met with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution about preventing suicidal behaviour on the Orwell Bridge and how those at risk on the Bridge can be helped. Every suicide and every time someone goes up on the Bridge with suicidal thoughts is a tragedy and we must take every possible step to ensure the authorities can intervene before the worst happens.
One of the issues raised with me by the Institution was their understanding that cameras on the Bridge, which could spot people at risk, aren’t currently working. Any cameras need to be consistently monitored as well. And I’ve now written to Highways England’s CEO calling for this to be look into. As well as the Orwell Bridge, we also need a local approach to looking at other potential sites where people could be at risk and what we can do to make sure the chance to help isn’t missed. The Institution have also said the number of incidents on the Bridge have increased since the first lockdown. Clearly with the new national lockdown and more restrictions on people’s ability to see loved-ones and potentially more pressure on their finances in the run up to Christmas, we have to do everything we can now.
I’m also looking to raise this issue as part of my work on Ipswich’s Transport Taskforce and its engagement with Highways England. We must ensure this issue is prioritised locally. This will be a focus for me over the coming days and weeks. I’ll keep working with the local branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution based in Harwich which is mainly made up of volunteers who respond with lifeboats if someone is at risk on the Orwell Bridge. And of course I’ll continue working with organisations like Suffolk MIND and our local NHS to ensure everything is being done to stop anyone getting to the place where they feel their only option is take their own life.
Yesterday I teamed up with Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, to press the Government for more funding for potholes. Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent are similar in that they’re both urban areas but we don’t get the proportionate levels of funding for road repairs compared to larger metropolitan centres. We also lose out compared to rural areas where the current funding formula puts more emphasis on road length than it does on things like heavy traffic wearing away at our roads in urban areas.
In the debate I specifically mentioned the need for more funding to fix up our roads in parts of town like Chantry, Gainsborough and Rushmere (but I appreciate there are big issues with pavement and road quality across town). And how this isn’t just an important issue for road safety but it’s also about how we should have roads which reflect the pride people have in their local communities and our commitment as elected representatives to leave no street or neighbourhood feeling left behind.
Since I was elected I’ve been out and about across the town flagging potholes and road and pavement surfaces in need of repair with Suffolk County Council. And I’ve also been able to identify a number of road surfaces simply not up to standard through my surveys in Chantry and Ravenswood. Since the summer I’ve been meeting on a monthly basis with the County Council to get detailed updates on road repair schemes in Ipswich and lobby for further ones too. This intensified focus on road repairs in Ipswich is starting to produce results, particularly with the resurfacing of Sheldrake Drive in September. It’s also good to see resurfacing work completed on Avondale Road and Neath Drive and that resurfacing of Stone Lodge Lane West has been locked in for next year.
Clearly there is much more to do across town and that’s why my monthly meetings with the County Council’s Highways Department are crucial. And if there are any road or pavement issues in town you think need raising please email me at email@example.com and I’ll flag them in my next meeting.
I’ll keep fighting both locally and nationally for better roads and pavements for Ipswich which improve pedestrians and road users’ experience and also give local people confidence that their elected officials care as much about their areas as they do.
Used Justice Questions today to again raise my campaign to end social media use in prison and call on the Justice Secretary to ensure prisoners found to have used social media in prison are punished robustly. As I’ve made clear at length in the House of Commons before on multiple occasions, the punishments available for this serious crime must include reviewing the sentences of those found guilty and adding years to their sentence for their harmful actions.
These posts are immensely distressing for victims and each time they appear they send out a poor message about our criminal justice system to prisoners and those who may be thinking about committing a crime. It’s clear that not enough of the prisoners responsible are brought to book, and when they are, the slap-on-the-wrist punishments handed out through prisons’ internal discipline processes aren’t a sufficient deterrent to stop it happening again. I understand that all those convicted for killing Tavis Spencer-Aitkens in Ipswich have now posted on social media. Clearly there is a sense this is something prisoners can get away with.
I remain in close contact with Tavis’s family to ensure this is put to an end in their case in particular. And I’ll keep raising this issue until victims don’t have to be anxious every time they check their phone and there are punishments with teeth in place including extended sentences. We must be unapologetic about putting our justice system on the side of victims and in saying that our prison system exists first and foremost to punish criminals.
Yesterday I spoke in a debate before Wednesday’s vote on the second national lockdown. I’m spending a lot of time studying all the data and reading the emails sent in by constituents before deciding how to vote. I want to hear your views as well so please let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org and later today I’ll be sharing a poll on Facebook where your can tell me what your views are.
In my speech yesterday, I mentioned some of the issues which are very much on my mind with this national lockdown. Clearly this is a difficult national decision which the Prime Minister has agonised over, and agree or disagree, I believe it’s a decision he’s taken with the need to protect lives, livelihoods and liberties in mind. I know this will be a difficult decision for some in Ipswich to understand while we still have relatively low rates of Covid-19 despite recent rises. And while I understand there are no patients with Covid in our local hospital’s ICU, being mindful all the time that this is likely to change. I also raised the 18-year-old I met in Chantry a few months back who was working every hour God sends in a bar to provide for his three-month-old daughter and was terrified what a second lockdown would mean for his livelihood. I’m reflecting on all of this before making my decision but one thing we must be clear about now is that this national lockdown must be the last and it must end on 2 December. I’m glad the PM has made this promise.
I hope the Government will also look closely at issues like communal religious services which currently won’t be able to go ahead from 5 November. A large number of constituents have contacted me about this and I know how significant they are to many people of faith in Ipswich. This should be an area where we look at what can be done in the guidance going forwards.
I also mentioned Ipswich Town FC and the meetings I’ve had with the club and the EFL about getting a support package in place to protect our clubs future. The club is woven into the DNA of our town, it’s at the heart of our economy, culture and community and we must support it while fans can’t return.
I’ll be weighing up all the factors before the vote tomorrow and once again please do get in touch with your views at email@example.com I’ll be making this decision based on what I think is right for Ipswich.
This morning I met with Rick Parry, the Chairman of the EFL, alongside other MPs to discuss the challenges EFL clubs are facing. In particular I raised Ipswich Town struggles through the pandemic after I met with the club’s Managing Director earlier this month to discuss them in detail.
Ultimately, getting fans safely back in stadiums and buying tickets has to be the priority for tackling the financial pressures clubs are under. Germany had allowed some fans to return and this seem to work quite well until new national Covid-19 restrictions meant attendance had to be put on hold again. And I’ve also made it clear before in the House of Commons that it was disappointing the Government postponed test case matches at the last minute when Ipswich Town had been ready to welcome back 1,000 fans safely to Portman Road. I appreciate that since then Covid-19 cases have risen in Ipswich and we need to be mindful of this as well.
But as long as fans are absent, there must be a comprehensive support package in place to support EFL clubs, and in the meeting I stressed how we should be looking at things like a PAYE holiday for football league clubs and whether solidarity payments from the Premier League can be increased. I appreciate this isn’t an easy time for many Premier League clubs either but Football League clubs are much more reliant on ticket sales than their Premier League counterparts who receive much more revenue from TV rights. And if EFL teams suffer the whole of English football will lose out.
When it comes to securing the future of Ipswich Town and other EFL clubs we mustn’t get complacent and take our clubs for granted. The idea that Ipswich Town’s future might be called into question if things get worse doesn’t bear thinking about. In the meeting with Rick Parry I mentioned the work the role the club plays in our town’s economy, supporting jobs, and the work it does in the community supporting grassroots football and projects like the new Sir Bobby Robson School. These can easily be lost but take a long time to build back up and it’s vital we put the investment in now to ensure we’re not facing much greater losses further down the line. I’ll remain in close contact with Ipswich Town and I’ll keep looking to raise this issue in the House of Commons wherever possible to fight for our local club.
The club have also told me how they’re ready to be one of the first clubs to take part in test case games where some fans eventually return.. And I’ll use my dialogue with the EFL to support this if it’s safe to do so when the time comes.