MPs met yesterday with representatives of East Midlands trains, Thameslink and the Department of Transport to express their strong concerns about the recent announcement of changes to trains after May 2018 in the region.

 

MPs of all parties, at a meeting chaired by Alistair Burt MP, were united in their anger on behalf of constituents over the total lack of communication and consultations on the proposed changes.

 

Mr Burt said; “Considering the recent discussions over a new franchise, it’s quite staggering that no mention was made of the far more significant changes being brought about through an otherwise excellent multi billion pound investment in our regional rail network. We regret that a chance of some influence has therefore been lost.”

 

The MPs were told that changes to train times and other disruptions were essential if the interconnected major track investment was to proceed.

 

Mr Burt said; “Colleagues will now be seeking more detail on behalf of constituents to see what further mitigation might be possible. We all welcome improvements, but the process and arrangements have not been communicated in an appropriate manner to us or our constituents."

 

Further meetings and discussions on clarification will be held at the start of the New Year.

 

MP Welcomes Universal Service Obligation on Broadband Access Speeds

Alistair Burt, MP for NE Bedfordshire, today welcomed the announcement by the Culture Secretary to give everyone in the UK access to high speed broadband through a Universal Service Obligation.

The new Universal Service Obligation will allow everyone to access speeds of at least 10Mbps by 2020 and will maximise connections in the hardest to reach areas, through providing fixed lines to some rural areas.

Alistair said:

“I know how important broadband is to homes and businesses, and how frustrating it has been for those constituents who are unable to access a decent service. The Government and Central Bedfordshire Superfast Team have worked hard to roll out superfast broadband across the constituency, and many areas are due for upgrades in 2018. However, this regulatory approach will ensure that no one is left behind”.

This follows a consultation launched last summer on the design of the regulatory USO. The Government will now set out the design for a legal right to high speed broadband in secondary legislation early next year, alongside a detailed response to the consultation.

This regulatory approach also brings a number of other advantages for the consumer:

  • the minimum speed of connection can be increased over time as consumers’ connectivity requirements evolve
  • it provides for greater enforcement to help ensure households and businesses do get connected
  • the scheme will maximise the provision of fixed line connections in the hardest to reach areas
  • places a legal requirement for high speed broadband to be provided to anyone requesting it, subject to a cost threshold (in the same way the universal service right to a landline telephone works).

MP Joins the Pact To Never Drink and Drive 

Today Alistair Burt, Member of Parliament for NE Bedfordshire, has committed to JOIN THE PACT with Johnnie Walker to never drink and drive and is urging constituents to join in signing the anti-drink drive pledge. 

JOIN THE PACT is a global responsible drinking programme set up in 2008 by Diageo, owner of Johnnie Walker, which encourages people to make a commitment to never drink and drive. Johnnie Walker are asking people to make their commitment through using the hashtag #JOINTHEPACT on social media.  

Alistair said: 

“If you drink and drive it puts the lives of others at risk, whether they are drivers, pedestrians or passengers in their own car. I urge my constituents to JOIN THE PACT to never drink and drive and to keep themselves, their communities and their loved ones’ safe this festive season. 

In the last 50 years, road casualties caused by drink driving have fallen dramatically, but in 2014, there were still 240 deaths due to drink driving – accounting for 14% of all road fatalities.  By drinking and driving, you risk not only your life, but those of your passengers and others on the road”. 

Diageo has secured over 5 million pledges never to drink and drive through its global programme, beating its target a year ahead of its goal. Today Diageo also announces a tenfold increase in its next target, aiming to secure 50 million pledges by 2025.

Alistair Burt MP has welcomed yesterday’s announcement that reforms to the national curriculum have seen the best reading standards in England for over 15 years. 

In 2010 the Government announced that all schools would be required to use phonics to teach children to read and since then England has risen to joint 8th in the world for reading standards – improving the reading level of pupils from all backgrounds and closing the attainment gap. For NE Bedfordshire this means that more children are getting the skills they need to excel later in life. 

This follows official statistics, released last week, which show 18,116 children in NE Bedfordshire are now attending schools rated good or outstanding – an increase of 5418 since 2010. Nationally, the proportion of pupils meeting the expected standard in phonics has risen from just 58% in 2012 to 81% in 2017, with 92% of pupils reaching this standard by age seven. 

Alistair Burt has welcomed this latest confirmation of rising school standards: 

“This is great news for NE Bedfordshire as more children are gaining the skills they need to excel in later life and fulfil their potential. Standards in our schools are rising because of the hard work of teachers and changes the Government has made to the curriculum. These results show that we are making sure that every child in NE Bedfordshire gets the best start in life”.

Alistair Burt warmly welcomed today’s Budget which provides support for families and businesses in NE Beds and places investment in the country’s long-term future.

Alistair said:

“This is a Budget that backs families and businesses in my constituency with tax cuts for workers, small businesses and first-time buyers. We are also investing in our public services with £6.3 billion of new funding for the NHS and more money for schools to boost maths and computer science teaching.

I am sure that my constituents will welcome the freeze in fuel duty for both petrol and diesel vehicles for the eighth year in a row. This has saved the average car driver £850, and the average van driver over £2,100, since 2010.

I particularly welcome the abolition of stamp duty for all first time buyer purchases up to £300,000. This is alongside an additional investment in housing, taking the total this Parliament to £44 billion.

We are helping our 5.5 million small businesses by bringing forward by two years the planned Business Rates switch from RPI to CPI to April 2018. By 2022-23 this will save the average high street shop £800, the average pub £1,480, and the average restaurant £1,680 and is worth £2.3 billion to businesses over the next five years.

Continuing the £1,000 discount for pubs in England with a rateable value of up to £100,000 is also welcome news for pubs in NE Beds.

Since 2010, there are 86,500 more businesses and 296,000 more people in work in the East of England - the second highest employment rate of any region. This Budget builds on that success and on the strengths of the British economy”.

 

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MP ENCOURAGES LOCAL BUSINESSES TO APPLY FOR BUSINESS RATES RELIEF 

NE Beds MP Alistair Burt is urging local businesses to apply to their local authority’s Discretionary Business Rates Relief Scheme following the 2017 business rate revaluation. 

At the spring Budget the Chancellor announced a £435 million package of support for ratepayers. This includes a £300 million Discretionary fund for local authorities to distribute over four years with Bedford Borough being allocated £216,000 and Central Bedfordshire Council £366,000 this year. 

Alistair said, “Good progress has been made and I understand that local authorities are starting to rebill eligible businesses. I am grateful to Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Council for their good work so far but am keen to ensure that all available relief has reached eligible businesses. 

The Discretionary scheme’s design means that any unspent monies will be returned to central government and, as a result, local businesses may miss out. I urge them to contact their relevant local authority directly”. 

The Government’s £435 million support package also provides help through the Supporting Small Business Relief Scheme and the Pub Relief Scheme.

Rt Hon Alistair Burt, Minister of State FCO/DFID said:-

“I was pleased to work with Priti Patel at DFID, who made a strong contribution to our continuing world leadership in Development, and wish her well for the future.

I am looking forward to working with new Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt, who brings a strong Ministerial and constituency background to the Department. She will enhance a great team.”

 

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