Category Archives: residents

MP opens new Rosebery Road recreation ground

Mark Reckless MP joins local councillors and residents to open new Rosebery Road recreation ground

Mark Reckless joins local councillors and residents to open new Rosebery Road recreation ground

Mark Reckless MP was delighted to open the newly installed children’s playground on the Rosebery Road recreation ground between Lansdowne Road and Beresford Avenue in Rochester South and Horsted ward.

Despite the current financial difficulties, local councillors Trevor Clarke, Sylvia Griffin and Rupert Turpin managed to obtain funding to allow the installation of a new playground in this area. The location will make it ideal for the use of children from the two Balfour schools.

Apparatus is aimed towards the younger children. However, improvements will also be made to the current football pitches to accommodate both a juinior pitch and a mini pitch.

Speaking after the opening, Mark Reckless said:

I know the local ward councillors fought hard to secure the funding for a new playground in this area. I was delighted to open these new play facilities which will benefit so many children locally.

My congratualtions to the ward councillors for their hard work in delivering these improved facilities.”

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Couples earning £100,000 to keep child benefit?*

We promised to restore recognition of marriage to the tax system. Instead, this budget tells millions of parents that they can only keep child benefit by both going out to work.

If Mum stays home to look after the kids then Dad can only earn half what they could take home as a couple before the family loses child benefit.

All the Chancellor has done in the budget is raise the threshold above which benefit is taken away by around £7,000 and replace his previous ‘cliff-edge’ withdrawal of benefit with a steep taper that leaves single earners with children facing implied marginal tax rates of well over 50% if they have one child, and nearer 80% if they have four or five.

George Osborne has done nothing about the main problem with this policy – a single earner household losing their benefit while a dual earner couple earning up to twice as much keep theirs.

A single earner household, say with Mum staying home to look after the kids, will lose child benefit if they earn between £50,000 and 60,000, but a couple where both parents go out to work can keep their child benefit even if they earn £100,000 between them.

What is Conservative about that? And why on earth is the Chancellor still trying to do it even though colleagues have tried to explain the problem to him time and time again.

*if they both go out to work

MP welcomes Marlowe Park surgery contract extension

Local residents and councillors standing up for local services in Strood South

Local residents and councillors standing up for local services in Strood South

Mark Reckless MP has welcomed the news that, following his intervention, the PCT has agreed to offer Dr Juneja a three month extension to keep the popular Marlowe Park Medical Centre in Strood South open beyond 31st March 2012.

Speaking after hearing the news, Mark said;

“I had a further conversation with Dr James Thallon, the PCT medical director, on Wednesday afternoon following a lengthy meeting with him in Tonbridge the previous Wednesday. I am delighted that the Kent and Medway PCT has agreed to offer Dr Juneja this initial three month extension to keep the popular Marlowe Park surgery in Strood open following my intervention. I believe that they are now negotiating in good faith with better mutual understanding.

The PCT and their committed and conscientious medical director James Thallon have really listened to my explanation of Dr Juneja’s exceptional past experience and commitment to his patients in Strood and beyond.

I hope that they will now successfully reach a long term agreement for the surgery. I am grateful to our responsive and relatively accountable PCT and particularly Dr Thallon for listening to me as the MP and to patients and then genuinely reconsidering their decision.”

Responding to the announcement, Dr Juneja from Marlowe Park Medical Centre said:

“I sincerely believe that without the help of Mark Reckless and Cllrs John Avey and Josie Iles that this contract extension, and the step towards discussions, would not have been possible.

I am deeply indebted to Mark, the Councillors, my patients who have not deserted the Practice, and my staff who have hung on. My heartfelt thanks and best wishes.

For his great contribution to the local population, I’ll be on the streets for Mark if he needs me in future to support a just cause. At the same time, I’d like to thank the Medway NHS Trust Commissioners for their show of goodwill and the LMC for it’s undaunting support all along the line.”

Child Benefit 40% Tax Policy in Trouble

The government’s plan to withdraw child benefit from households in which one or more taxpayers pay 40% income tax is in serious trouble.

I have just come from a parliamentary debate in which Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch, exposed a whole series of problems with the policy to which the minister, David Gauke MP, had few if any answers. The government line is simply not convincing, one suspects because the policy was drawn up in a rush before our 2010 Conference without being properly thought through.

More seriously still from the government’s perspective, it is not clear that it has a majority in Parliament for the policy. The LibDems, of course, love the idea, but Labour appears set to oppose it, having somewhat opportunistically deemed the households affected to belong to Ed Miliband’s rather elastic “squeezed middle”.

Meanwhile, a very significant number of Conservative backbenchers have concerns and, in many cases, these are sufficiently serious that I would expect them to be expressed in the voting lobbies.

The policy is particularly toxic for colleagues who want to see the government do more to promote marriage and the traditional family, given the lack of movement so far on the government’s promise to recognise marriage in the tax system. However, the policy is also objectionable for those who want the tax system to be neutral between personal choices, since it clobbers single earner householders, most usually with a stay-at-home Mum, relative to dual-earner couples.

Ministers cannot answer colleagues who question them about the sheer unfairness of one family with a single earner on £45,000 losing their child benefit, while a family with two earners, each earning around £40,000, get to keep their child benefit. Certainly, I don’t feel that I am currently able to give constituents a satisfactory answer as to how this is fair, particularly when we continue to pay child benefit to many thousands of children in EU countries such as Poland and Lithuania, where costs are much lower, even when they have never set foot in the UK.

Given the four figure sums involved, the equivalent of £4,000 of marginal gross income for a family with three children, it is no surprise that many people have contacted their MP on this issue. I have had several dozen constituents raise it with me, but another MP says that he has been contacted by over a thousand people. Adding to the weight of such representations is the fact that, at least in my case, they do not appear to be part of an orchestrated campaign.

Colleagues had expected the Treasury to come forward with proposals to mitigate the unfairness of the policy, but now it is suggested that this would be too complicated and difficult, given the implications of household means testing for independent taxation.

If so, the Treasury would be well advised to use the Budget to drop this policy. The alternative may be that it is defeated on the floor of the House.

MP welcomes Balfour Centre reprieve

Mark Reckless MP (middle) with Cllrs Sylvia Griffin and Trevor Clarke visit the Balfour Centre

Mark Reckless MP (middle) with Cllrs Sylvia Griffin and Trevor Clarke visit the Balfour Centre

Mark Reckless MP has welcomed the decision by Medway Council to extend the Balfour Centre consultation period following a late bid from Medway Community Healthcare, which provides community NHS services to the people of Medway, to take over the running of the centre in Pattens Lane.

Mark, along with local ward councillors Sylvia Griffin and Trevor Clarke, recently visited the centre to discuss the consultation and to meet with and listen to some of current users of the centre.

Following a last minute bid from Medway Community Healthcare, Medway Council’s cabinet yesterday voted unanimously to extend the consultation period for the Balfour Centre, which supports adults with disabilities, to explore the viability of the proposal.

Speaking after the decision, Mark said:

“Many disabled people clearly enjoy the time that they spend at the Balfour Centre and gain skils and social opportunites which otherwise may not be available to them. I was impressed by the commitment of Balfour centre users and staff to the centre.

I am delighted that Medway Council have run a genuine consultation and that Medway Community Healthcare have come forward with these proposals to take over the running of the centre.”

Keeping Medway moving in the snow

The flurry of snow on Saturday night undeniably left Medway looking extremely picturesque but posed the potential threat of chaos on our roads.

I would like to congratulate Medway Council for the outstanding job they did in clearing our roads and pavements, making it safe for the people of Medway to travel.

The Council had teams of gritters out throughout the night in the build up to the freezing conditions in order to minimise disruption; eight gritting vehicles patrolled Medway and a fleet of 4x4s were sent to remote areas. Medway has over 5000 tonnes of salt stockpiled in preparation for icy conditions and just under 390 salt bins dotted around Medway for residents to use.

Despite the best efforts of the Council to ensure safety I would still like to encourage caution when using the roads and pavements. I would also like to urge residents to check in on elderly or vulnerable neighbours who may be struggling to cope with the icy conditions.

MP welcomes Government boost for local housing

Building on the flagship Housing Strategy, the Government has this week unveiled a range of measures to help first time buyers onto the housing ladder, provide support for millions who have been left languishing on social housing waiting lists and get construction on the move.

The announcement that, through the New Homes Bonus, Medway Council has been granted £2,317,239 this year to build much-needed housing in the local area is welcome. The New Homes Bonus, which will start being paid in March, is a multi-billion pound programme which rewards communities when they accept more housebuilding in their area and includes extra rewards for building new affordable homes, and for getting long-term empty homes back into use.

 Medway Council, under the leadership of our excellent group of Conservative Councillors, will have ultimate oversight of any proposed building development, not central government. It will be the job of locally elected, and therefore accountable, representatives to decide on the benefits of building new affordable homes versus the human, environmental and economic impact of continuing with Labour’s failed housing policies.

Labour led Britain into a housing crisis – the number of affordable homes fell, waiting lists almost doubled and first-time buyer numbers collapsed to their lowest level for a generation.

As I said on Wednesday in reply to Simon Hughes in the House of Commons debate on Welfare Reform, it is not fair that many of my constituents are forced to get up at 6 in the morning to catch a coach to London because they cannot afford to pay the fare for the train, let alone find the rent for a flat in Bermondsey. It is not fair that the taxes of so many hard-working residents in my constituency of Rochester and Strood are supporting people on benefits who live permanently without a job in some of the most expensive accommodation in the country.

The government is right to tackle the lack of decent homes as a priority while also addressing the huge imbalance in the welfare system which traps people on benefits. I am delighted to welcome the Government’s £2.3m funding for new homes in Medway, which is far more than generous than the grant allocated to our more leafy neighbours such as Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells (£645,997 and £597,603 respectively).

The Government’s action will help local people onto the housing ladder, provide more affordable housing and create local jobs.