20 APR 2018

Star Column - 12th April 2018

"I'm delighted that Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals will receive a huge £69 million capital investment to improve services for patients. The additional cash, announced recently by Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will enable the transformation of buildings and services as the two hospitals merge creating the new East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust. My recent meeting with the Chief Executive of the two hospitals, Nick Hulme was the latest in a series of updates where I have been pressing for assurances that the need to fix Colchester Hospital would not detract from the clinical care for patients of Ipswich Hospital. I'm satisfied that has been the case and I recognise the significant benefits this merger will bring.

Thank you to the 2,400 parents and residents who have signed my petition to remove the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) from running Felixstowe Academy, after Ofsted rating the school as 'Inadequate' and placing it into 'Special Measures'. I will present the petition to the House of Commons in the next fortnight. I recently met the National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, who has subsequently issued a pre-termination warning letter to AET. This is the first stage of the process that can lead to securing a new organisation to run the school. While the EADT reported this as reducing funding for the school, I can assure readers this is not the case but is a warning to AET. I will shortly be meeting the Education Minister to go through the situation in detail and I will also be raising the concerns about the reduction of choice of key A level subjects. I intend to meet AET with the National Schools Commissioner to focus on rapid improvement in the short term. The pace of change must be increased in order to help the young people of Felixstowe Academy fulfil their potential. Ensuring that students who are due to sit their GCSE exams shortly are fully prepared must remain a priority.

Finally, good news for cyclists and motorists that the government has given a further £2.5m cash to Suffolk County Council to fix potholes. The recent winter weather has caused numerous potholes to appear and this additional money should help ensure that they are fixed quickly."

19 MAR 2018

Star Column - 14th March 2018

"It was great to welcome the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd to Felixstowe Port recently, as she came to see the successful Border Force operation that takes place here and talk to frontline staff. As well as dealing with potential threats to our border and ensuring the smooth flow of 4,000 lorries in and out of the port each day, Border Force have an important role in stopping illegitimate and counterfeit products getting through, which not only rips off the consumer and undermines legitimate business but is often used to fund criminal activity. The work done by Border Force to protect us and to stop illegal activity is appreciated by everyone.

Last month, I wrote about my concerns on the latest Ofsted report into Felixstowe Academy, which declared it an 'Inadequate' school and placed it into 'Special Measures'. As a result of that I set up a Parliamentary petition which has now been signed by over 1,200 people calling on the Academies Enterprise Trust who run the school to go, so the school can have a fresh start under new leadership. These are precious years in a child's life - and I don't want parents to have to drive past an inadequate school to get to another for their children to have a good education. A report is currently being drafted by the Schools Commissioner to inform Ministers about a way forward.

Finally, the latest round of the Government's £40m Coastal Communities Fund is now open for projects and organisations in Suffolk Coastal to bid into. In previous years Suffolk Coastal District Council and Felixstowe Forward have benefitted from the scheme to help promote tourism on the East Coast and to help rejuvenate Felixstowe. As in previous bidding rounds, the aim of the fund is to support economic development, delivering sustainable growth and jobs. The deadline is April 30th though the Government are also looking to fund a small number of projects which are ready to go and can be fast-tracked, with a closing date of April 2nd. For more information see - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coastal-communities-fund-round-5"

18 FEB 2018

Star Column - 14th February 2018

"Today marks the first day of Lent and I will be giving up something slightly different this year. I'll be joining a group of Conservative MPs in Parliament who will try to give up single use plastics. I am starting by carrying around my reusable water bottle, which fits into my handbag, so I can avoid buying drinks in plastic bottles. As Environment Minister, I have been working with a number of different organisations to try and increase the number of places where you can fill up your water bottle. Most coffee shops will do it for you if you ask but I am also trying to get more refill points into railway stations, airports and other transport hubs. We all know from watching Blue Planet 2 what damage single use plastics can do to our environment so before you pledge to give up alcohol or chocolate this Lent, I want to challenge you and all EADT readers to see what plastics you can give up - and see just what a difference it can make to our environment.

The latest Ofsted report into Felixstowe Academy was published this week and it is damning. It declares it as an 'Inadequate' school and placed it into 'Special Measures'. It notes that outcomes for pupils are below the government's floor standards; that there is a culture of bullying at the school; that too many pupils are persistently absent; and that the support provided by the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) has been ineffective in helping the school to improve. I have been on the case with AET for some years to try and improve the performance of Felixstowe Academy and thought things were getting better. However, when I saw their provisional results and their progress 8 results in particular last summer, with the final results published in January this year, it showed to me that the Academy was going backwards and that AET was not giving the leadership and support to the teachers in order to provide the best for the children.

That's why I met the Education Minister last month to discuss my concerns and why I am meeting AET next week. That was before I knew about the report coming out and I will escalate this within the Department of Education. The time for AET running Felixstowe Academy is over. We need to get new arrangements in place as quickly as possible, so the school can have a fresh start under new leadership for the benefit of the children of Felixstowe. To this end, I have started a Parliamentary Petition calling on AET to go. I have heard from a small number of parents so far but please add your voice by signing the petition at - http://theresecoffey.co.uk/petitions/"

12 JAN 2018

Star Column - 10th January 2018

"Happy New Year!

In 2018 we commemorate two totemic events - 100 years since the end of the Great War and of women getting the vote. As the first women to ever be elected to Parliament in Suffolk – I'm incredibly proud that a statue of Suffragist, Millicent Fawcett, who was born and raised in Aldeburgh – and part of the great Garrett family – will be erected in Parliament square this year. The first statue there of a woman.

I hope 2018 will also a big year for improving our road infrastructure. Late last year I added my support to the business case being developed by Suffolk County Council for the Suffolk Energy Gateway, the new road to by-pass the four villages along the A12. We now await the final decision from the Department of Transport. I also welcome the fact that the A14 has been marked as a potential expressway in the Strategic Road Network Report which should help us sort out some of the congestion points along the route.

Talking of roads - ahead of the phase 2 closure of Woods Lane which started on Monday, Bloor Homes committed to extended working hours on site, which should help reduce the length of the closure. Following a public consultation Bloor have agreed to extend their working hours to 730am – 8pm Monday – Friday and 730am – 4pm on Saturday and Sunday from the normal working hours of the Phase 1 closure. The response to the consultation did not support 24-hour working due to the impact on residents in the immediate vicinity. I'm pleased Bloor have listened to our concerns and although I recognise any closure will be incredibly frustrating for local residents, I'm confident from this extension in hours that the works will be completed more quickly.

Finally, the Secretary of State for the Environment and my departmental colleague, Michael Gove, last week set out our plans for the way farming subsidies will work post Brexit. The policy is designed to create certainty for famers over the medium term with guaranteed EU level subsidies until 2022. Our future plans will also see farmers rewarded for providing 'public goods' such as planting woodland, boosting wildlife, improving water quality and recreating wildflower meadows – all part of our policy to make sure our environment is even better protected as we leave the EU."

18 DEC 2017

Star Column - 14th December 2017

"In the early hours of Friday morning the Prime Minister secured an historic agreement with the European Union, which brings to an end the first phase of Brexit negotiations. The agreement secures the rights of the three million EU citizens living here and the million British citizens living in the EU; it represents a fair settlement in terms of money - the so called 'divorce bill'; and maintains the common travel area within the island of Ireland.

This agreement represents significant progress in the Brexit negotiations – the exact opposite of the picture that has been painted by parts of the national media in recent weeks. I'm grateful to the Prime Minister and our negotiating team for all their hard work in getting the best deal for Britain.

There has been lots of talk about our future financial obligations both during the referendum campaign and during the negotiations – but following a rigorous assessment by our negotiators the Government expects our final bill to be significantly below the £50bn - £100bn predictions that have been talked about in the media. Importantly the 'divorce bill' is money that we would have paid anyway had we stayed in the EU – but as we leave and pay off our commitments there will be significantly more sums of money to spend on our priorities. Including – and whisper it quietly – the NHS. Although I'm not committing to a figure on the side of a big red bus.

Now the first phase of Brexit has been agreed we can move on to detailed negotiations on other issues, including our future trade deal. This is of significant importance to our part of the country and crucial for Felixstowe as we need to ensure we can continue to trade freely through the port. The success of Felixstowe Port post-Brexit is an important strategic issue that affects not only the port itself but the many local businesses whose business relies on it. I'm confident that with the planning that's happening within Government we will avoid significant issues at Felixstowe.

As this is my last column of the year, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers a Happy and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I hope you have a fantastic time with family and friends."

10 NOV 2017

Star Column - 8th November 2017

"Ambulance bosses including the Chief Executive and the Chairman came to Parliament recently, at my invitation, to update East of England MPs on the Turnaround Plan to improve response times. This was the first update since the General Election so it was good to get an insight into progress made. To their immense credit things are improving with Red 1 and Red 2 emergency response performance up by 15% and 9% from 18 months ago. I was also pleased to hear that the Chief Executive is now confident through visits by the regulator that they are now headed for a 'Good' rating having previously been marked as 'requires improvement' by the CQC. Unfortunately handover delays at hospitals are getting much worse, which is very disappointing. Especially as I had previously written to offending hospitals and they assured me they were 'looking at ways of urgently improving the situation'. Undoubtedly, there is still a way to go before the full turnaround is achieved but the vital work of our paramedics and our laser-like scrutiny is helping patients.

Constituents often talk to me about the issue of litter which blights our towns and also our countryside when discarded via car windows. As the Minister responsible, I'm pleased to be bringing in tougher penalties to deter and punish those who continue to drop rubbish. From April next year the maximum on-the-spot fine will almost double from the current limit of £80 to £150 – and councils will also be given the power to impose fines on the owners of vehicles from which litter is thrown. Up till now councils had to prove who was driving the vehicle. These new fines will make sure the perpetrators, not the local community, bear the cost of keeping our streets, roads and countryside clean. As BBC Radio Suffolk used to say – Don't be a tosser!

This weekend the country will come together in remembrance. This year I will be in Aldeburgh before heading up to Halesworth for their service of remembrance later in the day. Remembrance Sunday is an opportunity not only to remember those who died for our freedom but also to show our gratitude to our serving men and women who do so much to keep us safe. My heartfelt thanks to them all."

13 OCT 2017

Star Column - 11th October 2017

"At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester last week, the Prime Minister set out what the Government is doing to build a country that works for everyone and to build a better future for the next generation. She was clear that we will continue to take a balanced approach to the economy, dealing with our debts whilst also investing in public services.

The standout announcements for me were increasing the affordable housing budget by £2bn to more than £9bn – allowing more homes to be built for social rent; a price cap on energy bills, we are publishing a draft Bill in Parliament this week; and doing more to bring tackling mental health issues into the mainstream. For the record, I am 100% behind Theresa May as our Prime Minister and so are all my colleagues I have spoken to.

Just over a year ago, I attended a ministerial convention on illegal wildlife trade. After that conference, I visited Kruger National Park in South Africa and saw the carcasses of slaughtered rhinos as well as the rhinos that rangers were protecting. Last week we heard that around 20,000 elephants a year are still being slaughtered because of the ivory trade. If current rates of poaching continue then elephants could be extinct in some African countries within decades. This is why the UK is pressing ahead with a full ban on the sale of ivory. A ban stronger than anywhere else in Europe, stronger than the USA and most of the world. Our ban will put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the trade in ivory and we will continue to press other countries to close their markets where it is contributing to poaching. My department have just started a 12 week consultation on the detail of the ban, to which we will respond early next year.

Finally, thank you to the NFU for organising a visit to Church Farm in Eyke earlier this month. It was great to meet the Flemings (and other farmers from the area) who run a mixture of dairy, livestock and arable farms. We talked about agricultural policy, water abstraction and, of course, Brexit – as well as the farmer led Environmental Scheme which promotes good stewardship of our countryside. It was also lovely to see calving first hand and the challenges on the River Deben."

22 SEP 2017

Star Column - 21st September 2017

"Brexit continued to dominate the national headlines from Parliament last week but the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, announced an increase in funding for schools. Locally, there are rises varying from 0.5% to over 18%. The big change, which I pressed for with other Suffolk MPs, is that the new formula had a higher basic percentage of funding to go to every child. This reflects that Suffolk has a very high employment rate and we have far fewer children than the national average receiving free school meals, but our household income is not as high as other places like Liverpool. I recognise the frustration locally that increases were not even higher and that Suffolk is still in the bottom quartile for funding per pupil but the teachers' unions and the Labour party campaigned to protect funding for other parts of the country which were already funded much more generously than Suffolk schools. Overall this meant less was available for Suffolk to right the historic wrongs but, we have kept our word, we have improved the funding formula for Suffolk children and we are now firmly on the up for school funding.

Suffolk MPs have been working together again to take up issues on our county's behalf. First all seven of us attended a meeting with Robert Goodwill, education minister who is taking through the new childcare policy. This was useful to set out some of the concerns that nursery and other childcare providers have shared with us, as well as hearing from the minister and officials the basis of the scheme specific to Suffolk. This was followed up with a meeting at Endeavour House. We also met senior transport officials regarding road infrastructure improvements in Suffolk, making the case for further investment on the A14 and key junctions along it.

Friday is the last chance to give your views on the controls on dogs being proposed by the council. While we all want our beaches and pavements cleaner (and thanks to those who helped in the national cleanup last weekend – I was at Aldeburgh), I think the original proposals go too far."

15 AUG 2017

Star Column - 9th August 2017

"Felixstowe's confidence is back as a town with a seafront of which to be proud. Recently, it has hosted the Suffolk Armed Forces Day (which Felixstowe style turned into to a weekend) and the transformation of the Pier is the latest triumph in the renaissance of the town. The owners should be really proud of their investment helping the regeneration. There are still a couple of issues to sort out to make Felixstowe even more beautiful, including the eyesore which is the former North Sea hotel but this tourist season is proving that Felixstowe is, once again, a great day out by the sea.

Residents are being given the chance to have their say on future development across Waveney as the council sets out its Local Plan with preferred locations for building 5,000 new homes over the next 20 years, including significant development in Halesworth. It is important that people read this carefully and respond to the consultation which closes on the 22nd September. Suffolk Coastal are due to publish their updated Local Plan shortly.

Exam results are due out this month and I hope that all our students achieve great results. Schools and colleges will be on hand to support students. There is also a national helpline which will open on results day 0808 100 8000 giving impartial advice. For students and parents, it may be a bit surprising for GCSE results are starting to be given as a rating from 9 to 1, rather than A* to G. Grade 4 upwards will be the new pass level. Schools are now assessed on the progress made by students while at school, rather than the proportion of students that pass 5 GCSEs.

My first few weeks of recess have been dominated by ministerial work, including publication of our new air quality strategy and then a recess road trip taking in visits to councils, businesses and environmental schemes across the country. My own constituency tour returns this month and in bank holiday week, I will be stopping off in over 90 parishes and towns across the 302 square miles of the Suffolk Coastal constituency. This is an invitation for constituents to come and speak to me about any issue that concerns you. You can see my tour timeline online - http://theresecoffey.co.uk/tour 2017"

14 JUL 2017

Star Column - 12th July 2017

"Since the General Election my constituency work has been firmly focussed on the health agenda – championing patients. As you may have seen in article in last week's East Anglian, I'm highly concerned that the East of England Ambulance Service is pressing ahead with their plans to create super hubs, which would leave no ambulances stationed in the Suffolk Coastal constituency at all. I'm worried that all the work I and others did holding the ambulance service to account to get them to improve their response times will be put at risk by their proposal - especially in relation to the Stroke 60 target, where patients suffering a stroke have to get to hospital within 60 minutes to maximise their ability to recover. I have written to the Chief Executive of the Ambulance Service, Robert Morton on this and I am arranging another meeting for ambulance bosses to come to Parliament so we can quiz them on their plans.

Another one of my long standing health campaigns has been trying to get the money from the sale of both Southwold Community and Patrick Stead hospitals re-invested in local healthcare provision. After many, not very fruitful exchanges with NHS Property – there is some hope with the publication of the Naylor Review. The review, which the Prime Minister has indicated that she is formally accepting, states that any sale receipts from locally owned assets will not be recovered centrally provided the disposal is in agreement with the local Sustainability and Transformation Plan. The Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG 'Shape of the System' plan promised that NHS nursing beds in local care homes would be provided instead of keeping the two hospitals open because it was clinically sound to do so. Despite the need for capital to be invested into this plan, there has been no previous guarantee that the money from the sale of the hospitals would be invested locally. I have asked the Secretary of State to intervene directly on this matter to support the 'Shape of the System' plan and to realise the recommendation set out in the review.

It was Seafarers' Awareness Week recently - and to mark the occasion I paid a visit to Felixstowe Seafarers Centre where I met some sailors and the Centre Manager. The Seafarers' Centre is an oasis on the port where seafarers are made to feel very welcome by the friendly staff and volunteer helpers. There's a chapel, a bar, shop, recreation area for table top games, TV room and a quiet room to sit and write home. I'm proud that such a fantastic service exists within Suffolk Coastal."

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Fresh Leadership for Felixstowe Academy

Sign the petition to remove the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) from the management of Felixstowe Academy so the school can have a fresh start under new leadership for the benefit of pupils.


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