Thank you as ever for taking an interest in my work as MP for Cheadle constituency, both here at home and down in Westminster. Parliament did not sit during August, giving me a chance to spend some more time meeting with local residents, businesses and charities back home.
The turmoil in the Middle East of course threw a shadow over August as day after day the conflict in Israel and Palestine grew worse. Throughout the summer I was in contact with Government ministers to urge them to implore both sides to desist in the violence. I am of course relieved that a cease-fire has been agreed and has held; I sincerely hope that the negotiations might be a stepping stone to reawakening a process where a more concrete peace agreement can be secured, and a move towards realising a two-state solution.
Being privileged to serve both a Muslim community and a Jewish community here in Cheadle constituency, I warmly welcomed the decision by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Muslim Council of Britain to release a joint statement, mourning the loss of life, and rebuking anti-Semitism and Islamophobia here at home. Any form of racism or xenophobia has no place in our community, and perpetrators will face prosecution.
The hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War was marked by many throughout the constituency by turning out lights for an hour at 10pm on Monday 4th August, for some time to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice made by so many. Some 30,000 residents from the Stockport borough served in the armed forces in the Great War, and over 2,000 of them did not return to their families. We will remember them.
Contra Vision Supplies Limited is a Bramhall based company that invented see-through graphic products that are sold worldwide – on the windows of buses and trains, offices and shops, providing advertisements, signs and privacy glazing. I was pleased to be able to visit the business to congratulate them on recently being given a Queen’s Award for International Trade; a terrific advert for what a great place Cheadle constituency is to do business.
I was pleased to welcome my colleague Simon Hughes MP, Minister at the Department of Justice, to the north-west for a series of visits in our local area. We first inspected the facilities at HMP Styal, a prison for women and female young offenders, meeting with both prisoners and prison officers.
After the visit we travelled to Stockport Town Hall for an informative meeting with Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd and Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy. Lastly we went to the excellent Stockport Women’s Centre which provides services to any woman that lives or works in the Stockport area who is in need of support, including those that have suffered from, or are experiencing, domestic violence.
Kwik Fit invited me to re-open their Cheadle depot after a significant refit. The investment is a sign of the company’s confidence in the strength of the demand in our area, and it is great that local drivers can now benefit from their state of the art equipment. I was also pleased to learn that Kwik Fit has an apprenticeship scheme which local young people are already taking advantage of.
Football league clubs would be allowed to introduce safe-standing areas into their stadia in plans proposed by the Liberal Democrats. Supporters have long called for the introduction for safe standing following successful implementation across Europe, most noticeably in the German Football league.
Local NHS services are changing; proposals include that some hospitals will become specialist centres of excellence for life-threatening conditions, more experts in one place will mean the highest-possible care. Both Stepping Hill and Wythenshaw hospitals can bid for specialist status and are doing so, but before any changes can be implemented, local people’s views must be heard. ‘Healthier Together’ has been set up to consult local residents and they have launched a consultation which can be accessed either online, or by phone – please hurry however, as it closes on Sunday 28th September. Please have your say.
As autumn comes around and local children return to school, all 5 to 7 year olds will, for the first time ever, receive a free, hot and healthy school lunch which they will be given every day throughout term-time. In Stockport alone over 10,000 children will benefit. The new scheme will save families an estimated £400 a year per child while helping to raise school standards, encourage the social benefit of groups of friends eating together, and cut the attainment gap.
The Liberal Democrats are committed to helping every child have the very best start in life; this September the number of two-year-olds entitled to free childcare is doubling - the least well-off 40% are now eligible. This is in addition to the free childcare (15 hours a week during school time) for all three and four year olds introduced by the Coalition Government. I am determined that no two-year old or their parents miss out on this benefit,so please check to see if you too can claim.
Last year Stockport Homes was voted second best landlord in the UK in a poll organised by the influential 24 Housing magazine. This year they have once again been named in the top ten, with final positions decided by public poll. I have voted for Stockport Homes as I know well how hard their employees work to provide an excellent service and to build strong neighbourhoods – please take a moment to register your support here.
Good news as stats reveal that local unemployment continues to fall; there are now just 679 local people looking for work that are claiming benefits – this represents just 1.5% of economically active people aged between 16 and 64. There is never any complacency, please rest assured that I continue to do what I can to attract new investment into our community.
The Office of National Statistics revealed that crime has fallen by more than 10% since the last election, in Stockport there was a total of 16,209 crimes recorded in 2013, down from 19,246 in 2012. The Coalition Government has been focused on trying to release police officers from crippling amounts of bureaucracy and get them back out on the beat; I pay tribute to them for their work in keeping us safe.
I was delighted to be invited to two very different but well-established annual events, one hosted by the Cheadle Muslim Association (CMA) and the other by the Cheadle Hulme Flower Show Society. Both were terrific community events which invited in local residents to join in the family fun.
Returning to Westminster, attention has been rightly focused in large part on the UK Government’s position in relation to ongoing concerns in Iraq, Syria, and the Ukraine.
Closer to home, I supported my Lib Dem colleague Andrew George’s Affordable Homes Private Members’ Bill which proposes necessary amendments to the Spare Room Subsidy or ‘Bedroom Tax’. The Bill was passed by Parliament and we are now awaiting the Committee Stage to be scheduled later this autumn.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if there are any issues that you think I might be able to help you with, either via email, post or by telephone.
I also hold twice-weekly surgeries at my constituency office on most Mondays and Fridays; my constituency office staff will be pleased to help make an appointment.
Mark Hunter MP