Improvements to local roads

January 25, 2016

The quality of local roads is a very important issue in North East Hertfordshire, and I have been campaigning for road improvements locally. I have recently received an update from Herts Highways on the state of repair of local roads and what action is being taken on potholes.

The most recent annual survey to assess the condition of all roads in Hertfordshire shows that, for A, B, and C roads, the percentage of the network that is considered in need of attention is lower than expected. Especially given the wet weather of 2014 which caused a lot of damage to local roads, this is good news and shows the fine work that Herts Highways have done to keep our strategic roads in good shape.

Although the figures for U roads were not quite as good, I welcome the news that the balance of future programmes has been adjusted to add more emphasis to the U roads in order to address this, without unduly risking the condition of the A, B, and C roads. Some of this work has already been completed as part of the 15/16 programme of works, and this may be reflected in the results of the next round of condition surveys.

As for the pothole situation, nearly 8,000 potholes have been dealt with across Hertfordshire over the past nine months, and, as a result of the mild winter we have had so far, fewer potholes are being reported compared with last year.

The improving state of our roads is good to see, and I will keep up the pressure to ensure that our smaller U roads receive more focus over the next year and that any potholes that are created in these weeks of colder weather are fixed quickly.


‘Change4Life Sugar Smart’ Campaign

January 20, 2016

This week saw the launch of the Change4Life Sugar Smart campaign by Public Health England, with support from local authorities, NGOs, housing associations, and five major retailers. This campaign highlights new guidance on the maximum amount of sugar that children should be consuming, and is designed to help families make healthier choices.

Five million Sugar Smart information packs have been distributed to primary school children, and the app, which allows people to scan the barcodes of over 75,000 everyday food and drink products to see their sugar content, has caught the public imagination, with over 300,000 downloads last week.

With the Government producing its Childhood Obesity Strategy shortly, this is a great campaign which will do much to help make Britain healthier. I urge everyone to find the app for themselves at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/change4life-sugar-swaps/id1015850256?mt=8
or
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.PHE.SugarSwaps


Making Tax Digital

January 12, 2016

The Treasury’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ programme looks set to be one of the biggest and most significant changes to the tax system in years. It will make HMRC one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world by introducing simple, secure, and personalised digital tax accounts. This will lead to the end of the annual tax return – a particular hassle for many at this time of year.

In March 2015, £1.3b was allocated to introducing these online tax accounts to all businesses and individuals by 2020, allowing tax affairs to be monitored and updated throughout the year, using Government-provided software and apps, thereby ending the need for an annual tax return.

In addition to saving many individuals a lot of work, this will bring huge benefits to businesses. Many businesses report that they worry about having to wait until the end of the year, or even longer, to find out how much tax they owe, and so by enabling them to update their tax accounts throughout the year, they will be able to have much more certainty about their tax position, and allow them to budget accordingly.

This policy could prevent hundreds of millions of pounds of tax loss from incorrect tax returns, give businesses and individuals more certainty about their tax bill, and save millions the worry of the annual tax return, and I will press to ensure that it is implemented on time.

 


The National Citizen Service in North East Hertfordshire

December 15, 2015

I have been a supporter of the National Citizen Service since it was first piloted in 2011. It is aimed at training the community leaders of the future, by teaching young people aged 16 and 17 the value of volunteering, personal resilience, life skills, social skills, and outdoor skills, and I am glad that it has achieved such cross-party support in Parliament.

 

A couple of particularly enjoyable NCS moments stand out for me. The first was a couple of years ago, when I visited Hormead School to see the work that a group of teenagers had been doing to create a garden area, as part of the programme. Fifteen young people gave up several weekends to clear an overgrown area in the school playground, moving quantities of earth, levelling the surface, pegging down weed-proof lining, and spreading enormous amounts of gravel. The garden was later planted with flowers and vegetables.

 

The second was last year, when I met one of my constituents, George Napier, who was selected to be one of the NCS’s Leaders for 2014/15, at an NCS Parliamentary reception. It was encouraging to see young people from North East Hertfordshire achieving so much in their local communities.

 

An impressive 817 young people took part in the NCS in North East Hertfordshire and the surrounding areas last year, and I am keen to see these numbers keep rising.

 

In reply to a Written Parliamentary Question that I sent to the Cabinet Office on the subject of the NCS, the Minister told me that the Chancellor had announced the Government’s ambition that 300,000 young people should “participate in NCS every year by 2019/20 so that they can learn new skills and give back to their communities”. This is excellent news, and I look forward to the NCS going from strength to strength in the years to come.


East and North Hertfordshire CCG becomes NHS ‘vanguard’ site

December 3, 2015

It is exciting to see that East and North Hertfordshire CCG has become one of the first NHS vanguard’ sites in the UK.

Earlier this year, the NHS invited individual organisations and partnerships to apply to become ‘vanguard’ sites to help develop new care models, representing one of the first steps towards delivering the Five Year Forward View and supporting improvement and integration of services.

The Hertfordshire Vanguard is made up of Hertfordshire County Council, East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Hertfordshire Care Providers Association, and aims to find new ways of improving the service offered to the area’s 3,000 care home residents.

The ‘vanguard’ status means that the group involved is able to draw on expert help and a share of a national £200m fund. The project aims to support frail elderly patients and those with multiple, complex, and long-term conditions in the community in a planned, proactive, and preventative way. The vanguard will also focus on enhancing the skills and confidence of care home staff through a package of education and training.

The programme will create dedicated multi-disciplinary teams for care homes which will include GPs, community psychiatric nurses, district nurses, and geriatricians. They will work with homes to support residents pro-actively, as well as if a resident’s condition deteriorates. They will develop a rapid response service so that care homes have access to services in two localities with a combination of community nurses, matrons, therapists, and home carers who can be deployed within 90 minutes if required.

This means that care home patients will be supported in the home by staff that are accredited, because they have undertaken a package of education and training. In addition, patients will know that should their condition deteriorate, a team of experts is ready to respond to their needs before making an assessment as to whether they need to go to hospital.

A number of improvements are already under way:

  • Care home staff and managers in eleven homes are undertaking intensive specialist training in a range of skills, from wound management to dementia care,
  • Two community pharmacists have been employed to give advice on medicines management to care home staff (care home patients take, on average, eight prescribed medicines a day, and medication errors frequently lead to hospital admissions),
  • A further ten care homes have signed up to take part in the next phase of the scheme.

This is an important project, and we all hope that it will make great strides in improving care home services, both in Hertfordshire and nationally. I wish all involved good luck in their task, and will be keeping a close eye on developments.


The Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation Consultation

July 27, 2015

The Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation is conducting a consultation ahead of the publication of its new Five Year Plan in January 2016. The online consultation aims to inform the next 5 year plan so that the Foundation can continue to add to the quality of life in Letchworth based on previous improvements carried out during the last 5 years. Those that wish to respond can do so online or by visiting the Community Hub on Station Road on weekdays between 10am and 3pm and leaving ideas in the suggestions box, or by visiting it when it is open late on the following Thursdays: 30 July, 6 and 13 August between 6.30-9pm, and on the following Saturdays: 25 July and 1, 8 and 15 August between 10.30am and 1pm.

It is important that the next 5 year plan reflects the wishes of those living in Letchworth and nearby and I would strongly encourage my constituents to respond to this consultation.

http://www.oliverheald.com


A report from a work experience student who spent a week at my office

July 21, 2015

Marcus
On my first day of work experience with Sir Oliver Heald MP and his wife, Christine, I accumulated opinions for and against the Hunting Act which, despite proving to be unnecessary due to the cancellation of the vote, gave my experience an initial sense of importance.

Another highlight of my week, working as an intern, was seeing Boris Johnson in Parliament during the budget debate, and to hear him make a short speech during the debate made the experience even more memorable. This debate was also the subject of heated discussion, as the budget proved to be a controversial topic, which was both entertaining and exciting.

Also, overseeing London from the top of the House of Commons – which I was told was the best view of Big Ben possible – was a truly magnificent experience as only a small selection of people can have access to such an extraordinary location.

When approaching the mid-point of the week, I was given the opportunity to deliver a petition, from North-East Hertfordshire, to 10 Downing Street. Despite the slightly intimidating policemen with machine guns, delivering the petition and having our photos taken at the door made for an incredible occasion. Furthermore, a tour of the Houses of Parliament proved to be very interesting. I was shown a bit of damage done to one of the tables in the House of Lords which is apparently caused by Winston Churchill slamming the ring on his finger against the table viciously when giving speeches. It is fascinating to know about the traditions that are still carried out in this modern-day democracy.

In addition, I watched other Parliamentary discussions regarding whether sex education lessons should continue at school, and whether only English MPs only should vote for English laws. During this, I was not only interested by the oral questions but the traditions within Parliament, such as the repetition of the phrase ‘my honourable friend’.

Finally, I completed two press releases during the latter end of the week. One of which was for the National Responsible Business Champion Award which took place in the Speaker’s house and was a very prestigious occasion. Secondly, I created a press release regarding the unemployment figures in North-East Hertfordshire.

To summarise, my week as an intern was very memorable, and the opportunities that I was given made me feel very honoured to be within such a prestigious place.
-Marcus Hutchinson


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