Monday, 23 June 2008

A proper hospital for Dover - update

In the last ten years, Buckland Hospital has been systematically destroyed, to universal dismay. Mr Prosser, the Labour MP, told a public meeting that he supports a plan for a polyclinic in Buckland’s car park.

That would not be good enough. Dover deserves a proper hospital. While the ideal would have been to improve and invest in Buckland over the last ten (wasted) years, it’s not the best for a new facility. The access, location and future space to expand are not the best.

So I don't agree with Mr Prosser’s support for the Buckland polyclinic. Nor do I believe this would be the “temporary” solution Mr Prosser claims. Ten years of advising the Shadow Cabinet on the management of the public finances has given me the experience to understand how things work at the highest levels of Government. It has also taught me how often temporary becomes permanent . . . and that people are right to be cynical as good intentions without funding are good intentions and no more.

Thankfully, things have already moved on. Reg Hansell, David Hannent, Pauline Majors, Denise Smith and 20,000 signatures do make a difference. I support and salute their work. Discussions are ongoing for a better located site and the likely settlement looks set to be better than the original offer Mr Prosser is so keen on.

Yet I am pessimistic that these discussions will get us fully where we want to be. I am not convinced the Government will agree to care beds, or adequate emergency services. I have therefore been pressing those engaged in the discussions for a site where greater expansion will be possible in the future. So that if this Government fails us again, a new Government would have the scope to make the further improvements we would all hope to see.

Monday, 16 June 2008

The Government's crazy school closure plan

Many parents will be terrified at the Government's plans to close schools. The threat is to close schools that fail to meet a benchmark of 30 per cent of pupils achieving at least five good GCSEs including English and maths.

Now, we all want better results, yet this policy is clearly barmy. Every school is unique and one size does not fit all. Locally, head teachers have been pointing out to me that the existence of grammar schools makes it a lot harder for non selective schools to achieve this benchmark. This is clearly true.

So I have taken this up with the Shadow Secretary of State for Schools, Michael Gove MP, who he tells me that he is acutely aware of the issue and believes account needs to be taken of special factors that affect schools.

In working the improve the quality of education, the Government should not go around stirring up fear. It's just not a way to treat teachers, parents or our kids. The education of our children is too important and a more thoughtful approach is required.

The photo is of me giving tickets for the Archery competition to the head of White Cliffs Primary School, with Chris Russell, Head of the Astor Fedferation. The White Cliffs School story is a lesson for us all - catchment areas may be tough, but it doesn't follow that schools in such areas have to be rubbish! Well done to them for bringing hope for a greater future to our children.

I think it's great that we have such a variety of schools - faith based, grammar, non selective, independent, city academies. I would like to see that variety further increased, with more schools that offer workplace skills based vocational education. All of us who are parents of school age children know that getting the right type of school with the right culture is a priority. A greater variety will make it easier for parents to achieve.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Petition for a proper hospital

I strongly support Dover's fight for a proper hospital. The Labour Government wants to palm us off with a polyclinic - this is not good enough! There should be beds and doctor led emergency services. So we are circulating this leaflet to give everyone the chance to have a say and join the campaign!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Visit to Pfizer

Together with my South Thanet colleague, Laura Sandys, I visited Pfizer with Shadow Chancellor George Osborne. It was amazing to see the work done at this World Class research centre. Above is how Pfizer reported the visit in their magazine.
I am really proud we have businesses like this in East Kent and will do all I can to see that they not only stay, but expand over time.