20 JUL 2017

Our front line must be Ready on Day One

This week I met with the Brexit Minister to discuss the importance of investing in our ports – particularly at the Dover and Deal frontline. As we prepare to leave the European Union we need to make sure that we are in the best position possible to succeed and prosper in the world. A vital part of these preparations must be ensuring that our ports are Ready on Day One.

I took a group of MPs who represent port constituencies to meet the Minister. We stressed the importance of the port-related jobs in our areas. And we all agreed that is vital that Brexit is a success at our ports up and down the land.

Nowhere will our preparations for Brexit be more important than at the Dover and Deal frontline. When we voted to leave the EU last June, I got to work straight away. The first thing to do was get the Calais Jungle dismantled. We worked closely with the French and within months the migrant camp was gone

I also met industry experts and business leaders in Parliament. With their help, I put together a detailed plan to keep trade flowing and ensure that we can thrive as a global trading nation post-Brexit.

Of course, we hope that a trade deal will be done with the EU that will enable tariff-free trade to continue. Yet if on day one no trade deal has been agreed, we must be fully prepared.

This means putting in place simple things like a Trusted Trader Scheme for haulage firms – and mutual recognition of meat products. And we need investment in state of the art technology to deal with customs checks rapidly. Singapore's average customs clearance time is 10 seconds. If we invest now, goods can move just as swiftly through Dover.

We also urgently need investment in our roads. The new Thames Crossing must be taken forward at speed. The M2/A2 needs to be upgraded and dualled all the way to the Channel Ports. And the planned M20 Lorry Park must be delivered on time.

Too often vested interests get in the way and it takes years to build the simplest road. Yet we have less than two years to get ready. That's why I'm campaigning for a Brexit Infrastructure Bill. We need a powerful new law to speed through administrative processes to enable vital projects to be delivered on time.

So far there's been a lot of posturing from Brussels, which comes as no surprise. But the reality is that it is in both Britain and Europe's interests for trade to grow. The French are just as keen as we are to keep tourists and truckers moving freely across the Dover and Calais border.

That's why my plan matters – so we are prepared for every eventuality to keep trade flowing across the English Channel.

2 comments

Well done Charlie Elphicke for putting in so much time and effort into this plan. The future for the UK Border can be very bright if we get the green light to implement it.
- Tony Smith CBE

Great news Mr Elphicke that you are still doing all you can to make the passage of goods as easy as it can be considering the situation.I have been a private importer for 40 years and remember the days of C10'sC12's T2L,s certificate of origin forms.Waiting at customs for many hours.The sad night in March 1987 when The Hereld filled with water leaving Zeebrugge. We can not and must not go back to that.This result was never expected so nothing was planned I can see that.Please keep up you great work and perhaps you should consider standing as the next party leader.I believe you would have great support. Deal
- Peter Murphy

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19 JUL 2017

More proof evil traffickers will stop at nothing

People traffickers are in the news again after three people were arrested trying to smuggle migrants into the UK - on a plane.

The British pilot of a four-seat Cessna plane was arrested, along with two other UK nationals, at an airport in Calais before it took off.

Four Albanian migrants were found on-board and it is understood they had been due to fly to these shores. An investigation into the incident by French authorities is underway.

Yet again we see that ruthless people traffickers will stop at nothing to break migrants into Britain.

We've cracked down on smuggling through lorries, dinghies and small boats. Now they are using light aircraft.

We cannot allow this latest extreme tactic to take off. We must smash the trafficking gangs and end their evil trade of modern slavery.

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18 JUL 2017

Finally, the A20 limit is gone!

It was a huge victory for residents when the hated A20 40mph speed limit was finally axed on Monday night. 

I have battled relentlessly to return the Folkestone to Dover dual carriageway to 70mph – with the 40mph limit only enforced on the rare occasions Dover TAP is in place.

Last year Highways England finally caved into my campaign and agreed to make the speed limit variable.

The permanent 40mph limit was removed before the morning rush hour on Tuesday.

Highways England should have got this work finished much sooner. But at long last the speed limit is being lifted.

This will be a huge relief to drivers across Dover and Deal. I would like to say thank you to every single resident who has written to me and Highways England to help our campaign.

I have also been informed the London bound A20 lane closure will be removed on Thursday (July 20), with no more road full closures to be carried out during the summer period.

The scrapping of the limit comes after I held a public meeting in Aycliffe on tackling traffic problems. Dozens of residents turned out at Aycliffe Church Centre to grill highways chiefs.

Residents raised the issue of lorries parked up by the Western Heights roundabout causing noise and air pollution. They said they want the traffic lights moved back down the A20, away from their estate.

I urged Highways England's area managing director Simon Jones to look again at whether this can be done.

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18 JUL 2017

New care home can tackle bed-blocking in our hospitals

I visited a new state-of-the-art care home built next door to Buckland Hospital.

Willow Park Lodge in Coombe Valley Road, run by Athena Healthcare Group, offers a range of community care and includes a cinema, hair salon and library. But I would also like to see respite care beds commissioned at the site.

I have put South Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in contact with the care home managers and urged them to make use of it. The CCG has agreed to visit the care home.

It was a pleasure to be shown around Willow Park Lodge by their expert staff. It is a first class facility. The company has considerable experience in delivering a range of social care types.

I think we should be grabbing the chance to have step down care beds commissioned in Dover, right next to our Buckland Hospital. Too many beds are blocked by people ready to be discharged but with nowhere to go. Too many Dover residents are sent to all corners of east Kent to recover. Health bosses at South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group must make sure it is utilised.

Each floor of the four-storey care home has been designed to cater for specific needs. The ground-floor provides a hotel-style service for people with low levels of dependency. The upper two floors look after those with higher dependency conditions like dementia, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Options for the top floor are still being considered, and I think health chiefs to explore options of commissioning respite care.

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16 JUL 2017

A busy weekend in the constituency

During a busy weekend in the constituency I presented an award and attended two village fayres.

I went to Whitfield recreation ground for Whitfield Village Fayre on Saturday, presenting a Kent Association of Local Councils Community Award to Pat Goldfinch, who has been Brownie Leader in Whitfield since 1974.

I want to give a huge congratulations to Pat Goldfinch for her incredible efforts across four decades.

On Sunday I attended Nonington Village Fayre, enjoying the stalls, entertainments and craft shows.

Our area really is the place to be over the Great British summer. If it was up to me I would spend every day in Dover and Deal.

I want to thank everyone who has helped organise our superb village fayres this year. They really are fantastic events and I urge as many people as possible to go along if they can.

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13 JUL 2017

Great news! The A20 speed limit is going

It was fantastic to see so many people turn out in Aycliffe on Friday to make their voice heard on traffic issues. It was a beautiful evening – perfect weather for a cold pint in a pub garden. Yet such is the strength of feeling in this community that every seat was filled in Aycliffe Church Centre. At least 20 more people stood at the back.

I organised the public meeting to give everyone a chance to put their views to those in charge – so we can work together to fix our roads. And it was great to see so many residents come along and ask important questions.

Aycliffe residents raised the issue of lorries parked up by the Western Heights roundabout causing noise and air pollution. Worst of all is when HGVs take a wrong turn and start driving round residential roads at night. So it's good to see Highways England have taken action and installed a gate at the entrance to the estate. Residents agreed this had made a big difference.

The people of Aycliffe also want the traffic lights at the roundabout moved back down the A20, away from their estate. I urged Highways England's area managing director Simon Jones to look again at whether this can be done.

Others highlighted the number of foreign lorry drivers flouting the A20 40mph speed limit. Kent Police's Inspector Ian Swallow said the force lacked the powers to give these drivers on-the-spot fines, like they do in France. I will keep up the pressure in Parliament to change the law and give police the powers they need.

Some lorry drivers use the B2011 through Capel and Elms Vale, as well as the Alkham Valley Road, as rat-runs to the port. Mr Jones said he would look at how we can stop HGVs diverting through these routes. He said Highways England and the port are working together to redirect trucks onto the M2/A2 rather than the M20/A20. Mr Jones confirmed they are looking at whether the A2 can be dualled.

The A20 40mph limit is the root cause of many of these problems. It's welcome to see that after a long and hard-fought campaign, Highways England have finally started scrapping it. Soon the work will be complete to return the road to 70mph – with the 40mph limit only enforced on the rare occasions Dover TAP is enforced. This should tackle the problem of lorries using the villages as rat-runs. Yet we must remain vigilant.

The representatives from Highways England, Kent Police and the Port of Dover were faced with tough questions on Friday. Yet they gave a very good account of themselves and received a deserved round of applause – as did Aycliffe's Ray Williams who did a great job helping me chair the meeting.

Much has been done to tackle gridlock and fix our roads. It is vital we work together to keep up the pressure.

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09 JUL 2017

Royal Marines Concert reinforced what we stand for

I laid a wreath at another poignant Royal Marines Concert.

Thousands gathered in front of Deal Memorial Bandstand on Walmer Green. The annual event pays tribute to 11 people killed in the Deal barracks bombing in 1989.

This year local Sea Cadets and The Victory Wartime Band warmed up the famous Royal Marines Band.

Opening songs were followed by an act of remembrance and rededication service, before rousing renditions of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory ended the day.

It was fantastic to be part of a massive crowd enjoying wonderful music in the sunshine. But we must never forget what is being honoured when the Royal Marines Band returns every July.

Our town was attacked by evil terrorists. The lives of 11 totally innocent musicians were taken. Their families will never recover.

As a country we have come a long way since then, and recent events should only reinforce what we stand for. The Royal Marines' beautiful music captured it perfectly – the British solidarity we have always had, and will always need.

I want to thank the Deal Memorial Bandstand trustees for organising another superb, poignant event.

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07 JUL 2017

Praising progress at the new Goodwin Academy site

I looked around Goodwin Academy's new school site recently and was amazed at the progress made. 

I was given a tour by Principal Simon Smith and construction firm Kier of the state-of-the-art facilities being built at Hamilton Road, Deal.

We fought a long and hard battle to secure funding for the school. Now some £25 million has been invested – with the new school building set to open in September.

I was incredibly impressed with the new building. 

This school has made brilliant progress over the last few years. Huge credit goes to Mr Smith, his hardworking staff and the pupils.

The smart new uniform they will soon be wearing is also top class.

Thanks to all our determined efforts, this really is a school transformed. It's so good to see Deal getting the investment in education we fought for and deserve.

The new site, being constructed next door to the current 1930s buildings in Mill Road, will have capacity for 1,300 pupils.

Equipment from the maritime studies centre based at the former Walmer Science College site has now been moved to the new building in Hamilton Road.

I also had a look at the modern gym equipment inside the new sports hall.

Now we just need the school to keep going from strength to strength to become an "outstanding" educational institution.

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06 JUL 2017

Pressing for action on pavement parking

I am calling on the Government to tackle dangerous pavement parking – which puts blind and partially-sighted people's lives at risk.

I attended a guide dogs event at the House of Commons on Monday and heard from guide dog owners how parked cars blocking paths force them to walk into oncoming traffic they cannot see.

Some face these dangerous situations on a daily basis, risking their safety every time they go shopping or make the school run.

No one should be forced to walk out into oncoming traffic by cars parked on the pavement.

The Government must take action to end problem pavement parking across the country. Blind and partially-sighted people should be able to walk the streets without fear.

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06 JUL 2017

Calling for a rethink of bus service cuts

At a meeting last week I demanded that Stagecoach bosses rethink plans to scrap bus services.

The firm recently launched a two-week consultation over changes to their commercially-operated routes. It would mean some villages losing their only regular service.

I asked for the consultation period to be extended and Stagecoach agreed, pushing its deadline back to July 3.

I then met with the area's managing director Philip Norwell on Friday (June 30).

I am still furious that some people in this area face losing their only regular service. It's clear the original plans were badly thought through.

Yet Stagecoach have now promised to rethink scrapping route 15B, which would leave River residents sitting on a bus for an hour-and-a-half just to get to Canterbury.

They also said they would reconsider changes at Eastry, which would be left with only an hourly service.

And they pledged to hold talks with Kent County Council about ensuring villages left without any buses continue to get a bus service.

These promises are all very welcome, but they must result in action. So many people rely on buses to get around and they deserve a decent service.

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Charlie Elphicke

Here you can read about local news matters and what I've been up to. You can make comments too. I'd welcome your feedback, so please do feel free to comment!

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