20 December 2005
That was Maria's verdict when she visited post office delivery workers in the run up to their busiest time of the year.
Full of praise for their efforts, Maria said “Post Office staff is clearly working very hard to ensure that both families and businesses continue to receive a first class postal delivery service over the busy Christmas period”
19 December 2005
Community Action Hampshire provides specialist advice and information services together with practical help, encouraging equal partnership between the voluntary, public and private sectors. Its membership ranges from large regional organisations to small local groups, all of them equally important and playing their part in creating vibrant and thriving communities.
Maria said "Our local volunteer organisations are a vital source of support for so many people in our community. The Hampshire Community Action group help ensure that local organisations get the support they need to be successful into the future: helping organise volunteers, business planning, identifying sources of funding".
"I was delighted to meet with Brian Challis and I am pleased to support them in the work that they do."
To contact Hampshire Community Action Team for help please contact: Community Action Hampshire, Beaconsfield House, Andover Road, Winchester SO22 6AT
Tel: 01962 854971 Fax: 01962 841160
18 December 2005
Maria said “12 week ante-natal scans should have been available to Basingstoke women since 2004. I am pleased that the local healthcare leaders have now recognised the concerns of pregnant women and have agreed to provide this service from February next year. Healthcare for pregnant women simply can not be postcode lottery and I will continue to monitor this situation to ensure North Hampshire women receive the ante-natal care that they should”
National Institute for Clinical Excellence (called NICE for short) has issued these guidelines to the NHS on antenatal care. “Your first appointment should be fairly early in your pregnancy (before 12 weeks). Your midwife or doctor should use it to identify your needs (such as whether you need additional care)”
13 December 2005
The Private Members Bill, sponsored Maria and tabled by Fareham MP, Mark Hoban, calls for it to be mandatory for local authorities and the Government to agree on the infrastructure required to support large housing development and, crucially, for an agreement on who is to pay, to be reached before work starts.
Maria said, “All too often new houses are planned without the appropriate improvements in local services being properly planned, costed, funded and then built. We saw this graphically illustrated when the Planning Inspector threw out the Borough Councils plans for Manydown and Bramley which were felt to be ‘unsustainable’ as a result of a lack of infrastructure. There are even examples in our town where improvements to local services have been agreed as part of planning permission and we then see those planned improvements simply evaporate when house building is underway. We cannot allow this to continue. House building has to go hand in hand with the necessary improvements to local services. The current system is a waste of time and local tax payers money.”
“With mounting pressure from John Prescott’s office for more and more building, we need a fresh approach to how we plan, cost and expand our local services. This bill will force the Government to work with local councils to agree in advance what improvements are needed and importantly who will pay. It is astonishing that the present system has been allowed to continue and this Bill would mean a far more sensible approach all round.”
6 December 2005
subsidised food imports.
"I have received hundreds of letters, emails and calls from Basingstoke people over many months expressing their concerns about Trade Justice and the implications for developing countries. I was therefore delighted to be asked to be part of a Parliamentary group visiting Ghana in West Africa to discuss the problems faced by local farmers.
"Developing countries like Ghana are often unable to fully protect local agricultural industries but developed countries still retain the right to do so, spending £300 billion on subsidizing their farmers’ production. The people I met in Ghana just wanted an even playing field - I fully support them. Distorting local markets with American subsidised rice, EU subsidised Dutch Chicken and Italian tomatoes mean that these products are taking the place of locally grown foods, and are fast becoming the staple diet of Ghanaians. Cheap, subsidised food is dumped on markets like this at below the cost of production putting local farmers out of business. 70% of Ghanaians are farmers and losing their market is a disaster for the whole economy. I will do all that I can to take that message into Parliament in the UK and in Europe where many of these policies are decided for us".
"I was delighted to be invited to also become a member of the Basingstoke Trade Justice group and I will lend my support in getting more distribution of Fair Trade products in our town.”
Maria will be using her findings as part of her work for the Trade and Industry Select Committee's Report into the World Trade Organisation negations in Hong Kong later this month.
Eliot Whittington, Parliamentary Officer for Christian Aid said:
“Ghana’s farmers are being pushed to the wall because they can’t compete with the flood of imported goods. Unfair competition is pushing them deeper into poverty and the international community, through the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, is making things worse. By letting Maria hear the voices of these farmers we hope that she will be able to tell their story and will join us in the fight for trade justice. “
23 November 2005
After questioning the Prime Minister Maria said, “We need new homes for families in our area but at the moment the Borough is trying to keep the Government happy by building more houses than we really need each year but, as the local inspector has warned, they are not improving services at the same rate. I am shocked that in his answer to me today the PM so openly disregarded the problems highlighted in the Local Inspectors Report. House building and improving local services like roads, sewage systems and public transport need to go hand in hand. Today the PM made it perfectly clear to the people of Basingstoke that it is his intention to force local Councils like ours to cram more and more houses into our town, onto our green fields and into our villages continuing to overload our communities and undermine the quality of life of local residents”.
“The Local Plan Report makes it clear that the Borough Council’s plans for Manydown, German Road in Bramley and Razors Farm in Chineham are “unsustainable” and was damning about the lack of thought given to the improvements needed to roads, public transport sewage treatment”.
“I believe we have to stand up to the Government NOW. House building levels should be set locally based on local need and based on how much money there is to improve local roads, schools and medical facilities”.
“In light of the Inspectors report and the Prime Ministers response today I have written to the Leader of Basingstoke and Dean Borough Council calling for him to join me in condemning the Prime Ministers irresponsible attitude to house building in Basingstoke and to undertake a complete review of the future house building plans for our town and villages. Basingstoke Borough Council is being sold down the river by this Government and they have to wake up to the crisis our community is facing”.
17 November 2005
Maria today backed Hampshire County Council’s campaign to “Save our Services”. At the launch of the campaign in Westminster Maria said, “Hampshire faces swingeing cuts to local services if Government plans go ahead. The county, it is anticipated, will yet again receive one of the lowest grant allocations in the country. Local residents in Basingstoke will either face Council Tax Bills going up by almost three times the level of inflation just to maintain current services or the Government will cap increases at 5% which would mean £8million in cuts to Hampshire services”.
The size of the potential cuts would have a devastating effect on local services and would mean a catalogue of cuts and closures:130 fewer residential care places for elderly residents, 200 fewer places for adults with physical, learning or mental health disabilities attending day centres, 150 fewer children in full time foster care placements, further backlogs in road maintenance when pressures from SEERA to increase house building.
Maria said” I raised the consequences of Government plans with Ministers last week. This Government has chosen to ignore the warnings given and accept that Hampshire residents will continue to be penalized. Today I have joined forces with the County Council and together we will fight for Hampshire to Save our Services”.
10 November 2005
As the clocks go back and the evenings become longer, Maria is reminding pedestrians and particularly children of the importance of being safe and being seen on the winter roads.
Maria said” With the return of long winter night, our children face greater risks on our roads and its even more important to remember the importance of basic road safety and the message” Be Safe, Be Seen”. The number of children killed or injured on our roads is coming down each year but we can’t afford to be complacent”
My tips for this winter are
• In the bad weather, make sure that drivers can see you by wearing bright or fluorescent clothing.
• Always wear something reflective when out in the dark evenings.
• Make sure you find a safe place to cross the road and always remember to stop, look and listen.
• If you are out at night choose routes that are well-lit by streetlights and cross the road at well-lit places.
Children in year one will once again all be receiving reflectors through the Nationwide Cats’ Eyes for Kids scheme and should wear them all winter- children wearing a reflector may be up to eight times safer than without it”
9 November 2005
Maria called on the Government to throw out their plans to revalue homes which would disproportionately hit Basingstoke, which has seen house prices rise 13% higher than the regional average in the last year alone. Basingstoke’s local MP went on to challenge Ministers to stop the continual increases in other household related tax loaded on homeowners throughout the South of England.
She noted that whilst the Government is keen to act on house price increases to levy higher Council Tax, they have failed to recognise the self same increases when reviewing the thresholds for Inheritance Tax and indeed stamp duty which can now leave even first time buyers with a hefty and often unexpected tax bill.
Speaking after the debate Maria said, “Taxation has to be seen to be fair to work effectively. A government who takes account of house price inflation for Council Tax but ignores the same increases when looking at other government taxation measures runs the risk of loosing the confidence of local residents. Today the Government has said they plan to postpone the implementation of this unfair measure. In the debate today, on behalf of families and pensioners throughout North Hampshire I called on Government Ministers to see sense and cancel revaluation once and for all”.
The report explains that the Government is instructing Councils to do ever more and meet costs over which they have no control, without providing a fair level of funding. Councils have to cope with new licensing laws, EU rules for disposing of electrical equipment, pensions for council staff; higher landfill tax and EU waste regulations.
Maria Miller said, “Last year the Government was at pains to keep council taxes down before a General Election. Labour has turned council tax into a punishing stealth tax, with local councillors taking the blame when bills hit the doorstep. Under Labour council tax bills in Basingstoke have gone through the roof, up by 77% since 1997”.
“These increases in Council Tax are hitting pensioners hardest. Especially at a time when they are having to find more to cover their gas and electricity bills too. I would like to see an automatic 50 per cent discount for pensioners’ council tax bills, backed up with less red tape and fewer burdens on councils so bills can be kept down for everyone.”