Welcome to my February email newsletter. It’s been a busy few weeks since the start of the year in Parliament, and I’ve been pleased to raise local and national issues in the House on issues such as pensions, road improvements and recycling/waste changes, which you can find more about below. I’ve also included some local updates on projects such as the Heanor High Streets Fund works and the long-awaited installation of step-free access at Alfreton, as well as access to health appointments.
If there are any issues you’d like to discuss further or that I can help with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact details at the bottom.
War in Ukraine – President Zelensky visit
In Westminster we had the great honour of welcoming Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to give an address to parliament. He spoke about bravery when faced with the horrors of war, praising the courage of the men and women in Ukraine who are defending their country, and highlighting how the people of the United Kingdom embody these values themselves. It was a moving yet tongue-in-cheek speech, demonstrating that the Ukrainians share the classically British sense of humour in the face of adversity.
We should be incredibly proud of the support we have given to Ukraine, and the impact that we have made in helping them to defend their country. I wholeheartedly support the Government’s efforts to support Ukraine, and the equipment and training which has been provided to the Ukrainian military. It is right that the United Kingdom continues to stand up for freedom and democracy on the world stage, and to defend these values as we have done before.
I will be speaking to Radio Derby about the war in Ukraine as part of their coverage of the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
Pensions debates update
We’ve certainly had the time to cover pensions over the last few weeks in the House of Commons. As part of my role on the Work and Pensions Committee, I’ve had the chance to speak at length in a number of debates on various aspects of pensions, and the future of our pension system.
On the 3rd of February, I chaired a Backbench Business debate on State Pension Age. We had cross-party consensus in favour of postponing a further increase to the state pension age, and discussions were had on life-expectancy in the UK. I argued the case that any further increases must consider differing effects of manual vs professional workers, and high-earners vs those who earn the least. Given the consensus against a further increase to 68, I urged the Government to factor our discussion into their upcoming review of the State Pension Age.
On the 6th of February, the House of Commons debated the plans to uprate pensions and benefits with inflation. I spoke strongly in favour of benefits and pensions increasing by 10% in line with inflation and argued further that there needs to be a review to work out whether the benefits and pensions given to individuals across the UK are in line with their expected living costs. Families and pensioners relying on Government support should be given enough to cover their basic needs and housing costs.
Finally, on the 7th of February, I attended a debate in Westminster Hall on protecting pension savers. Our discussion focused on ensuring self-employed people, gig-economy workers, full-time carers and women are all protected and supported in saving sufficiently for retirement. These groups have historically found it more difficult to save, and discussions were had on how to protect and improve their pensions. I spoke repeatedly about reforms to protect these vulnerable groups, and also on the Government new plans for an online dashboard, which will help people more easily track and plan their pension savings.
There are a number of changes on the way to modernise and improve the pension system, and to ensure not only that pensioners are appropriately supported in retirement, but that people are easily able to track their pensions and empowered to save sufficiently for their futures.
I am proud to be a part of these ongoing discussions about our pension system and the support provided to pensioners in the UK and you can find my recent contributions in the House in these debates in full here.
APPG Cleaning & Hygiene update
On the 30th of January I chaired a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cleaning and Hygiene. It was enlightening to speak to professionals working in cleaning services and the manufacturing of cleaning products about the industry and its importance in supporting out NHS and preventing the spread of disease.
I was happy to be joined in this meeting by John Hines from SC Johnson Professional, who have a manufacturing plant in Denby.
The group was able to discuss our recent report on the role which the cleaning and hygiene industry can plan in pandemic resilience and response, as well as supporting the NHS and reducing the spread of winter flu. One of the outcomes of the report was to encourage people continue the good habits we all developed during the pandemic, which will help keep our homes and families safer and healthier.
Junction 28 improvement works debate
Whilst Junction 28 of the M1 isn’t directly in Amber Valley, the delays currently caused at peak times as a result of the daily congestion in this area regularly back up into our area, sometimes as far as Alfreton and Swanwick.
Neighbouring MP, Mark Fletcher, within whose Bolsover constituency J28 lies, is campaigning for a capacity upgrade to reduce congestions and delays, and I was pleased to support him and his campaign during a recent Westminster Hall debate in Parliament.
I took the opportunity to raise related issues such as noise from the A38, capacity on the roads and the importance of improvements to Junction 28 to driving growth as well as reducing the problems currently being caused.
You can read the debate in full here.
Recycling & EPR
There will be a lot of changes to our waste and recycling systems coming forward over the next few years, to encourage less landfill and more recycling.
As a result, I recently raised a question in Parliament about the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (ERP) for packaging, and the potential impacts of this. You can read my question and the Minister’s reply, as well as the debate in full, here.
Heanor Future High Streets Fund project update
Work is progressing on the Heanor Future High Streets Fund and regeneration projects. I’ve been pleased to join the programme board overseeing progress.
Final designs for the new Heanor marketplace have come forward and these are coming out to consultations on the 21st and 23rd February at St Lawrence Church, as well as being recorded and available on the AVBC website shortly after. If you’d like more information on these, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, works is progressing on the plans for the regeneration of the former Heanor Grammar School into the Heanor Hub. The planning application is still live but essential works have been taking place to prevent the further deterioration of the building, with works to the roof and the removal of asbestos. I was pleased to recently visit the Grammar School to have a look around the site.
Finally, the remediation and regeneration of the land at Whysall Street as part of the brownfield regeneration fund is also moving forwards. Surveys have started, and a £1m grant has been secured to tidy up the site prior to turning it into 40 new affordable homes.
GP & dental appointments
Many constituents have been in touch regarding access to GP and dental appointments. As one specific example, Brooklyn Medical Practice in Heanor has recently moved into the Royal Primary Care Trust.
I’m working to arrange update visits with them and other local GPs and dentists to discuss issues they may be facing, and feed back on issues which have been raised with me by constituents.
I also continue to regularly meet with our local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to discuss updates and hospital treatment updates/waiting lists with them.
Access to cash & banking services – new deposit service announced for Ripley
I know that access to cash and banking services is an issue many constituents have contacted me about, and whilst I can’t stop banks who sadly decide to close their high street branches, I have been regularly meeting with them to discuss this and maintaining access to banks for residents.
In addition to this, Link and Access to Cash UK are working on new ways to maintain banking services in our high streets.
As part of this, I’m pleased that Ripley was recently selected by Link to have a new shared deposit service in the town. This will provide consumers and businesses with convenient and accessible ways to deposit cash even if they cannot visit a bank branch.
I’m scheduling a meeting with Link to discuss this further, as well as access to cash in Amber Valley’s other towns, and I’ll keep you updated. Please let me know if you have any views or suggestions in the meantime though.
Step-free access for Alfreton Station update
I’ve been in contact with Network Rail to chase updates on the long-awaited Alfreton Station access for all scheme, which is due for completion by April 2024.
Whilst I’m disappointed by the delays to date, I’m pleased by the progress that is now being seen, with work on the various reports and surveys now taking place. For instance, Network Rail are progressing the coal mining, topographical, ecological and drainage surveys which will then inform the final draft designs and plans.
I’m meeting with Network Rail over the next few weeks to get further updates and timetable information, which I’ll update you on in my next newsletter.
Shared Prosperity Funding Success – £2.9 million additional funding for Amber Valley
I’m pleased that confirmation has been received that the Borough Council is receiving £2.9 million in Government granting funding through the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF). This is part of the Levelling Up agenda, and the funding will be spent across Amber Valley over the next few years.
In particular, projects which will receive investment include improvements to our town centres, new community sports and leisure facilities, including investment in our local parks and play areas. There will also be £240k for community and voluntary sector organisations to bid for to support specific projects and improvements.
Specific projects so far confirmed include a new skatepark for Heanor, shop front improvement grants and the installation of solar panels on our local leisure centres.
Residents’ survey reminder
I’ve been out and about across Amber Valley delivering a survey to as many residents as possible to ask for your views and priorities for this year ahead. If you haven’t received one yet, or if you haven’t completed it, please take just a couple of minutes to let me know your views on local and national issues online here.
As always, if there are any street repairs in your area, such as potholes, pavement repairs or broken street lights, you can report these issues and concerns to me quickly and easily here so I can ask for the repairs to be investigated and addressed.
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Get in Touch!
As always, you can contact me by hitting the ‘reply’ button on this email, or you can ring my office on 01773 744341.
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Promoted by Nigel Mills MP, of Unicorn House, Wellington Street, Ripley, Derbyshire, DE5 3EH.
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