This month has certainly been a little unusual when it comes to casework. The weather has not helped! However I wanted to provide some information about the cases crossing my desk throughout February.
Storm Dennis and Storm Ciara sadly led to some widespread flooding on our roads and sadly, in some people's homes and gardens. I have been liaising with the relevant bodies on the individual cases and also raising with Ministers of State the importance of improving our flood defences, preventing property development on flood plains and supporting our local authorities and the environment agency to carry out much needed dredging and drain flushing work.
I was fortunate enough to be given the title Housing Minister and that certainly didn't go unnoticed with queries coming in on private rented housing, lack of council housing and cladding. I can assure you that the Government is keen to build more social housing but the developments need to be right for the community, tighter regulations are being rolled out in the private rented market and I hope further decisions on cladding will be finalised soon.
Coronavirus is on the minds of residents and rightly so, while the Government have no plans to halt flights into and out of the country, this is under regular review and may change depending on the evidence. The Prime Minister has confirmed a four point plan for dealing with Coronavirus - Contain, Delay, Mitigate, Research. You can find out more about it as well as the latest information on spread, travel and risk levels at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public in the meantime continue doing what you can to stay clean, healthy and help others maintain their hand and respiratory hygiene, even if that means reminding the local coffee shop that their soap dispenser needs refilling. We can all do our bit to reduce the spread of the virus and the strain on the NHS.
Villagers from Hints have raised concerns about access to GP services after they were asked to de-register from a surgery in Shenstone and re-register with a surgery in Tamworth town centre. I have raised this issue with the CCG and am escalating it to NHS England as I am conscious some residents have received care and support for complex conditions from Westgate Practice in Shenstone for over 20 years, to move now to a surgery further away in distance, seems illogical.
Youth anti social behaviour in Belgrave has been a hot topic, the issue which came to a head over the February school half-term had been building. The police have now set up additional patrols and dispersal orders in the area. Some of the perpetrators have been apprehended, parents of those involved have also been engaged with. The police will continue to work with residents to bring anti social behaviour to a minimum.
If you are a young person looking for something to do of an evening, we do have a number of active uniformed groups, Police Cadets, Sea Cadets, Air Cadets and of course Scouts, Boys Brigade, A29. There's numerous sports available from snowboarding and boxing to swimming, rugby, gymnastics, horse riding and even entertainment like NRG's urban dance crew and Enact Academy. Staffordshire Wildlife Trust also take on volunteers regularly for those who are environmentally conscious. There's plenty to do in the local area
Potholes remained a constant in correspondence, I understand Staffordshire County Council are making use of a new scanner vehicle to identify the worst affected rural roads, eventually they aim to build a full map of the county to better focus maintenance efforts. There is still a backlog of category 3 potholes, the non-essential type but I am encouraged that the Highways team are conscious that residents take steps to report these issues but do not always receive clear replies. The team will now try to improve their systems further confirming when inspections and temporary repairs are taking place.
Campaigns had a big environmental theme this month, focus on improving our oceans, reducing deforestation, boosting animal welfare and preventing trophy hunting. The Department for Environment is on board and supportive of the projects.
There were also campaigns raised on boosting funding for dementia care (I hope the forthcoming Budget will have good news here), boosting support for mental health conditions and raising awareness about Motor Neurone Disease.
There was also a big campaign on protecting children online, the new internet regulation will assist in this regard and the Home Office is working on further initiatives to help protect young people whilst ensuring freedom of speech and exchange of ideas can continue online.
Beer duty was raised again, yes I and others have been lobbying the Chancellor on this one to keep our pubs open and small breweries functioning. A number of residents also wrote in about the Windrush Generation. While the majority of these cases have been addressed, if you know somebody affected who needs identification encourage them to visit www.gov.uk/guidance/windrush-scheme for more information. We have seen some great results from the Windrush team so I know they will help anybody struggling to obtain services due to lack of ID.
It has been a busy month and I expect this will continue through March but if I can help you in any ways, please do call my office or drop me an email, I will do all I can to assist.