So far this month Alicia has visited the community allotment in Melton, Long Clawson Dairy, Langham Church of England Primary School, Brooksby Melton College, Rutland Polo, Multum Gin Parvo, PERA Business Park, Belvoir Fruit Farms, the Grainstore, Rutland Showground, Ryhall Village Fete, Rutland Police, Oakham Castle Party and HMP Stocken.
I hope you have been keeping well, and that this week’s extreme heat hasn’t been to big of a challenge – I for one am not a sun seeker!
Over the last month it’s been wonderful to be able to be out again exploring and supporting residents and businesses around Rutland and Melton, from Redmile, to Ingarsby to Ryhall. As you may have seen I had the joy of introducing Trade Secretary State Liz Truss to Long Clawson Dairy and Belvoir Fruit Farms, and I’ve also finally been able to visit schools in person! It was lovely to visit Langham Primary School and Melton Brooksby College to talk about education for our young people.
Needless to say, the last two months have been a time to meet old friends and new faces for all of us, and I hope you have had the chance to reconnect with friends as I have. From Oakham Castle Party to Ryhall Fete I’ve so enjoyed seeing our communities back together again.
As ever, I write to update you on what I’ve been working on for our home over the last month. So in today’s newsletter I cover:
- Government Funds for Rutland and Melton
- Success on the Melton Mowbray Distributor Road
- A Flag for Leicestershire
- Melton Mowbray in the Running to Home New DEFRA Office
- Improved GP Access in Melton and Oakham
- A New 3G pitch for Melton Football Club
- Boosting Policing Numbers
- Issues Around Rutland Showground
- Meeting the Prime Minister and hosting Liz Truss
- COVID-19 Job Support Update
- Rutland and Melton Entrepreneurs Programme
- Boundary Review
- Report on Chinese Atrocities Committed Against the Uyghur
- Consultation on Geographically Protected Foods - Closes 26 July
- Come Visit Parliament and Attend Prime Minister’s Questions!
I know that the loosening of restrictions from Monday brings with it anxieties for many, but I hope that we can all be confident that this decision was taken with the full backing of scientific advice from our medical experts. Yes rates of infection are higher, but the evidence is strong that our world-beating vaccine programme has significantly weakened the link between cases, infections and deaths. In other words we are seeing significantly fewer people who test positive having to go to hospital for treatment. It’s fantastic that every adult in the UK has now been offered their first dose, and two thirds of all adults have received both vaccinations, but we will of course all remain cautious and respectful of our duties to protect our communities as we embrace a return to freedoms.
I look forward to seeing more of you all as we continue to recover from this pandemic, and reconnect with our loved ones and friends. Hopefully some of you will take me up on my offer of a Tour of Parliament (see the last bit of my newsletter!).
Government Funds for Rutland and Melton
I’m delighted to share with you that since my last newsletter, the Government has announced funds to support:
- Allerton Research and Education Trust: £81,000 to make hedgerows even better at carbon capture and develop a Hedgerow Carbon Code
- Seven Schools in Rutland and Melton: To improve school buildings at these schools: Tugby Church of England Primary, Langham Church of England Primary, Empingham Church of England Primary, St Peter’s Church of England Wymondham, Cottesmore Academy, Redmile Church of England Primary, and Waltham on the Wolds Church of England Primary
- 11,778 premises in Rutland: To upgrade to full fibre broadband in properties across Cottesmore, North Luffenham, and Oakham (watch this space if you live in the Vale!)
Melton Mowbray Distributor Road
After many months of hard work, negotiations, and discussions with central government, I am absolutely delighted that Leicestershire County Council and Melton Borough Council have reached an agreement which saw the County Cabinet this week recommend accepting the £15 million of Government funding to build the southern section of the bypass.
I have been in constant touch with Melton Borough Council, Ministers, the Secretary of State, the Minister for Housing and Leicestershire County Council to ensure that this vitally important piece of infrastructure is delivered.
I’m grateful to all parties for coming together for the good of Melton, and I want to thank Melton Borough Council for stretching themselves to share some of the cost burdens of this project. But I also want to thank all of you who responded to my last email and wrote directly to the County Council or signed the petition. The outcome this week shows the power of what we can achieve when we come together.
I will continue to do everything I can to get shovels in the ground as soon as possible.
A New Flag for Leicestershire
It’s taken 1,000 years, but I am over the moon that Leicestershire is no longer the only English county without its own flag.
In Parliament I have been spearheading the campaign since February 2020 working with the cross-Leicestershire campaign group ‘A Flag for Leicestershire’ because Leicestershire deserves no less than any other County. I’m particularly delighted that it is Graham Shipley, a local resident in our Harborough villages, who has led this group and worked so closely with me on this.
The Fox and Cinquefoil flag for Leicestershire gives us an opportunity to learn more about our history and celebrate all that is wonderful about our great County. Our flags carry our history, our pride, help define who we are, and bring us together as communities. It is only by knowing our past that we can decide what we want our future to be.
I want in particular to thank the designer of the flag, Jason Saber, and all my Leicestershire MPs for backing me. Do go and spot the flag flying outside Melton Borough Council this Friday – Sunday!
Thank you as well to everyone who has written in to me in support of this wonderful design. To learn more about this wonderful flag and what the design means, please click here.
Melton Mowbray in the Running to Home New DEFRA Office
The MMDR success this week is a brilliant example of how, when our communities come together, there is nothing we can't accomplish. I’m hoping my campaign to bring a DEFRA Office to Melton is the next challenge that will prove the same thing.
Two weeks ago I met with the DEFRA Secretary George Eustice to discuss my campaign. It was a very productive meeting and I also raised it with Jacob Rees-Mogg during questions to the Leader of the House following my meeting with Michael Gove and Lord Agnew.
Each week every MP enters a ballot to secure an adjournment debate – that’s when a topic of an MP’s choosing is debated on the floor of the House of Commons for 30 minutes and the Government Minister responsible has to come and answer. I was so happy to finally win in the ballot and held a debate on Monday night about my campaign. You can watch the debate here.
I am overjoyed that the Minister announced in her response that as a result of my campaign, Melton Mowbray is now actively being considered by DEFRA as one of the locations to open a new DEFRA office.
I have been overwhelmed by the positive response from every corner of the constituency, and how our residents are stepping up to show our Government what they have to offer. It’s going to be a really hard fight as I know the civil service has a preference for cities, but I will keep fighting.
Improved GP Access in Melton and Oakham
We all deserve to have peace of mind that when it comes to our health, and to know we can access the local services we need. So I wanted to give an update on my ongoing work to improve health services locally.
In Rutland, families have shared with me the issues around getting appointments and specifically around our Oakham practice. There are specific interventions underway to support the practice and patients to tackle a range of issues, and I know Rutland County Council is exploring options to develop better facilities which I fully support.
Our Empingham Medical Centre secured planning permission to install a new building giving them three new clinical rooms to meet the needs of an increase in patients.
In Melton I am working with our local CCG and Melton Borough Council to deliver a second GP practice for our town. For years we have had far, far too many people served by just one practice which is fair on no one. It takes a lot of time, funds and a lot of work to deliver a new practice, but we are getting closer and closer to being able to deliver one.
There has been an increase in demand across all Practices, and together we can support clinicians and put in place the long term health provision our communities need. But the solutions take time to put in place. In the immediate our CCG is stepping forward to provide support and I am grateful to them.
I am also dedicated to working with the CCG to enhance our local, rural services. I know this a real commitment on their behalf, and I hope they make good on that commitment in ensuring facilities remain at St Mary's Birth Centre, Melton. While we did not win what we wanted - to keep St Mary's open, I am pushing hard to ensure that other facilities, such as a maternal mental health unit is opened there and postnatal centre is kept there. It is a good facility with strong ratings, and we should make use of it.
I will continue to work with central government so that Rutland and Melton gets the funding it deserves, and I am proud to have already secured the Prime Minister's support for my campaign for new GP surgeries in Melton and Oakham.
A New Pitch for Melton Football Club
I know many of you were concerned that the Pork Pie Army, and our great Melton Town football club, would be prevented from building a 3G pitch. When I heard this I immediately contacted the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Sport England to end the deadlock and remove unreasonable objections.
I am very glad that Melton Borough Council, Melton Town F.C. and Sport England have come to an agreement, and now our great community in Melton will be able to benefit from not one, but two 3G, state-of-the-art football pitches.
Boosting Police Numbers
If there is one issue I hear over and over and over it is the need for a greater police presence in Rutland and Melton. I couldn't agree more. We must get better at policing our rural areas.
I am very glad that in Leicestershire and Rutland we have seen more than 250 officers join the force between 31 March 2020 and 2021. This is a 13 per cent increase, and there are now nearly 2,300 officers in all of Leicestershire and Rutland. In other good news a Rural Policing Unit will launch soon!
I have written to the Police and Crime Commissioner to ensure that this uplift has a real impact in Rutland and Melton. I have requested:
- Three, ideally four, more police officers across the Rutland and Melton area, and
- Three more large, marked vehicles, equipped for rural policing.
On top of these resource requests, it is absolutely vital that police officers and emergency 111 and 999 operators get the training they need to respond to rural crime. Fly-tipping, hare coursing and livestock and vehicle thefts are not prioritised as they should be.
I have recently had a meeting with the DEFRA Secretary of State to address hare coursing, and I have raised 111 and 999 training with the Home Office. I am also working with local councils to develop better CCTV across our communities. These are key, long-term demands that will, along with the policing uplift, make Rutland and Melton even safer.
And indeed, I know many residents in Oakham felt unsafe when there was criminality and disruption due to events at Rutland Showground.
I know the Rutland Agricultural Society, which runs the showground, is taking this failure to alert Authorities very seriously, as is the Council and the local police. Lessons are being learned as we speak, and I know the Council and the police have put in place measures to ensure that they are properly notified if a private venue like the Showground ever puts on an event of that magnitude again. I met with the Police again only last week to follow up on this issue. I am very grateful to the Police for how quickly they responded, providing a significant increase in policing locally, including a drone unit, dog unit and specialist driving unit.
Bringing Government to Rutland and Melton
I also had the great pleasure of meeting the Prime Minister at No.10 recently, and hosting Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss in the Vale, to demonstrate just some of the incredible exporters we have in our communities.
I raised with the Prime Minister our GP needs locally, my DEFRA bid and fairer funding for Rutland and Leicestershire.
And it was a pleasure to introduce Liz Truss to some of the businesses that are already giving our wonderful part of the world a boost. Long Clawson Dairy is one of the largest Stilton exporters in the UK, and Belvoir Fruit Farms produces and sells our famous drinks around the world. I will keep working to help more local businesses export around the world.
COVID-19 Job Support Update
But to export, businesses need to have received the right protection and support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am proud to have fought for and secured the COVID-19 discretionary grant, which meant that businesses across the country which did not pay business rates could still access grant support. In total, in Rutland and Melton we saw nearly £123 million in loans provided, nearly 2,500 grants worth over £23 million given to businesses and 4,500 people received the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
17,900 jobs were protected through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in Rutland and Melton, that’s some 48 per cent of all employment jobs in the constituency.
The Government made sure unprecedented support was given in unprecedented times. Our job now is to ensure that businesses can build on this support, to charge our recovery and bring back jobs and growth.
In the East Midlands, it is working. There are now more people employed in the East Midlands than there were before the pandemic.
Rutland and Melton Entrepreneurs Programme
To continue that jobs trend, we need to encourage entrepreneurship and enterprise, in every part of our communities.
That is why I am delighted to have launched my Rutland and Melton Entrepeneurs Programme. It started with an event for female business owners and hopefuls across our towns and villages. It was a privilege to share the stage with so many talented entrepreneurs, and be joined by the amazing interior designer and business woman Alison Cork.
Stray's Coffee, Oakham, White Boutique, and Luna Rayn Emporium all kindly stepped forward to provide their advice and tips for those thinking about starting a business.
I aim to arrange an event once a quarter in this format, and hopefully kick off a Peer Mentor Programme from these events too. So please stay tuned for more events connecting small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs from every corner of Rutland and Melton!
Speaking of every corner of Rutland and Melton, under the current proposals from the Boundary Commission, Rutland and Melton will be split to become the constituencies of Melton and Syston and Rutland and Stamford.
The boundary review aims to make every constituency a similar size and to eliminate current imbalances in the number of residents represented. However, it also needs to ensure that any boundaries reflect local communities.
I very much value the letters I’ve received from many of you sharing your views on the initial proposals, thank you.
Before the proposals were published, I was clear that any changes must protect and enhance services and representation for residents of Rutland, Melton, the Vale and the Harborough villages. I have listened to many stakeholders locally and my Association and we do not believe that the proposals do this. The argument for the proposed divorce of Rutland from Leicestershire pertains to mathematical imperatives for the wider region formulated by the Commission – the need for Lincolnshire seats to be re-drawn due to their size and number of residents.
Whether you agree with me, or not, I would value the chance to hear your views and I would ask you to please respond to the consultation by the 2nd of August, so please click here. We are a long way off any decision, and your views matter as the Boundary Commission will listen to respondents. In the meantime I am committed to our communities as your representative in Parliament and continue to work as hard as I can to deliver the best for all of us.
I feel humbled and honoured as I fight for every person in our community to have the chance to succeed, and for Government to invest in our wonderful villages and towns. There’s so much we want to do together for our communities, to deliver the peace of mind our communities deserve.
Report on Chinese Atrocities Against the Uyghur in Xinjiang
I was proud this month to see the Foreign Affairs Committee publish its report on the actions of the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang, and a series of recommendations that the UK Government can implement to help stop the genocide. This follows the inquiry I called for.
What China is doing against the Uyghur is nothing short of genocide, and as parliamentarians we have a duty to stand up for those whom others seek to silence.
I have been working in the UK and with our allies to address this issue, and a few weeks ago I worked with Canadian Shadow Foreign Minister Michael Chong to publish a piece on what our countries can do together to end these atrocities.
The Government has been very receptive, and I will keep raising this vital issue at every stage.
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Geographically Protected Foods - Consultation Closes 26th July
Finally, as I have written before, the United Kingdom needs to seize the global opportunity presented by Brexit, and our desire to chart a new course.
As the home of three Geographical Indications, Meltonians and Rutlanders know more than most that our food and drink can put us on the map, and boost jobs and growth at home.
That is why I started the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Geographically Protected Foods, and why we are running a consultation on the UK's Geographical Indication Scheme. GIs recognise the unique make, history and culture of our foods and drinks, and ensure that they can't use the name of the product unless it is produced to certain standards - like Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, Stilton Cheese or Rutland Bitter!
We are looking for your views on how GIs can be made even better - how they can be better marketed, better protected, better promoted abroad, and more easily accessible to foods that want to be protected. Make your voice heard and help chart a new global course for British food police by clicking here.
As with every community initiative, by coming together we are stronger than we are apart. In Rutland and Melton when we work together we make true our motto: multum in parvo - much in little.
Visit the Houses of Parliament
I would love to welcome you all on a tour of the Palace of Westminster! From September I’ll be holding tours once a month on a Thursday afternoon.
The tour will be led by a member of my team, and will take you through the fascinating history of the buildings, how Parliament works, what it’s like to work there day-to-day and I'll come and meet you during your tour to share with you how I’m fighting for our villages and towns so that we have the opportunities and investment to succeed.
Sign up for a tour of Parliament here and we’ll be in touch to discuss dates: https://www.aliciakearns.com/visit-parliament-tour
Tickets for Prime Minister’s Questions
Every month I apply for one pair of tickets to take two residents to Prime Minister’s Questions – the show piece of weekly politics in the UK.
If you would like to enter the ballot, which seems the only fair way to share out the tickets, please do so at my website here. You’ll get to come to Parliament, enjoy a shorter tour with a member of my team expert in the history of Parliament, meet with me, and enjoy a fantastic seat watching PMQs right in the heart of the action. https://www.aliciakearns.com/attend-prime-ministers-questions