This month I wrote for our main local paper about my work for the early years sector, follow-up to the Kings Worthy school bus crash and, as fall-out continues following my workplace destination column last month, I reveal Winchester City Council's response to my challenge ...
Thank you to readers of the Hampshire Chronicle for an overwhelming response to my column last month which challenged Winchester City Council to show some ambition, and develop a strategy, so the City can regenerate and realise it’s potential as a ‘workplace destination’ in the post Covid-19 world.
It wasn’t just about Silver Hill or Station Approach – albeit both subject to more delay and dither – it was a call for an economic regeneration plan which recognises the daily commute is changing along with the world of work and builds something here that can generate an income for the City to help fund the public services and civic society we value so much.
Many, including my predecessor, wrote or commented and I received many more direct from constituents. While it may be awkward to have an MP challenging them and (whatever next) pushing his views on local issues via the local paper, I am still waiting on a response, any response infact, from WCC itself.
We’ve heard recently, in an excellent piece, of Winchester a century ago - a city of opportunities for young people – and I think it’s time to rise to occasion putting party allegiances aside and grab the remade roaring twenties. Catch-up www.stevebrine.com/winchesterworkplacedestination
Secondly, I promised at the recent election I would use my experience in this Parliament to highlight the issues facing our early years sector and as well as raising them in the House several times already, I took a delegation to meet the Chancellor in Downing Street this month.
Our key asks ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review include the creation of a Covid-19 recovery fund for the early years sector so that providers can access specific grants to cover the cost of making their settings as COVID-secure as possible, which must include a financial cushion for those who are experiencing depressed demand or reduced capacity as a consequence of the crisis.
Furthermore, we think registered childcare providers should be taken out of paying business rates permanently as is the case in Scotland and we want to see a simplified, centralised system which allows central government funds to be streamlined directly into the sector.
But above all, given the average gap between the hourly cost of delivering a funded 3-and 4-year old place this year has a 20% funding deficit, we need to see a meaningful review of childcare policy, in which funding is recalibrated to reflect actual cost, including upcoming wage increases, and the early years funding gap is eliminated.
As ever, I want to hear from you so please find out more and get in touch at www.stevebrine.com/earlyyears
And finally, the awful events of this month when a school bus crashed into a railway bridge at Kings Worthy, have horribly shaken many of us.
I said at the time we need urgent answers and I haven’t wasted any time in asking them on behalf of constituents while recognising, as we must, that the police need to do their work carefully given there are possible criminal prosecutions here.
The wider point is that while there are clearly issues with the timetabling of this particular service (out in the Itchen Valley where it begins each day), and I want a speedy resolution to them, we shouldn’t pretend there aren’t issues with home to school transport and it’s a subject I plan to table for debate in Parliament. If you want to input into that, please get in touch with me.
You can get very regular updates on my Facebook page at www.fb.com/SteveBrineMP
Steve Brine MP