As I report back to you on my latest work in Parliament and in the constituency there is mixed news. I am delighted to report that last week I secured a commitment from Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond for the £3 million funding required from central government to complete the Beccles Loop which will return hourly train services from Lowestoft to Ipswich once completed in 2012/13. This is excellent news and will make travel to and from the Waveney area easier for all of us as well being a much needed boost for business and tourism.
But the good news must be balanced with the bad. Last week Wessex Foods announced that most of the 150 people employed at the plant in Lowestoft will be made redundant after the fire in July which levelled the factory. Whilst a small administrative staff will remain in Lowestoft, the majority of jobs seem likely to be lost. This will have a devastating impact on individuals and families and I will be doing what I can to try to help them over the coming weeks.
Since my last report back, Suffolk County Council have given the go-ahead for a Pakefield High School. Whilst the process has been far from ideal, a new school in the area is essential and I will be working with the Council to secure the necessary funding to complete the school. I am particularly concerned about the safety of pupils when travelling to and from the school alongside the A12 from Kessingland and will be pressing Suffolk County Council to ensure that satisfactory travel arrangements are in place.
I was pleased to have the chance to debate the ‘Future of the Inshore Fishing Fleet on the East Coast’ in the House of Commons at an Adjournment Debate last month. Lowestoft’s fisherman have long received a raw deal from the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and in the debate I urged Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, to act to rid us of a policy that has had a terrible impact on our areas traditional industry. Whilst the outcome is unlikely to be speedy, it keeps the pressure on the Government ahead of the review of the CFP in 2012.
The future of Lowestoft County Court hangs in the balance. A report by Lord Chief Justice Goldring to Government gives some hope, suggesting that where the closure of a court would affect contact with court users it should be re-considered. This was the point I made in an earlier letter to Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly based on representations received from Lowestoft solicitors. It is clear that one of the main concerns they have is that the closures of the court will affect those most vulnerable who need urgent help and will not receive it as quickly or easily if they have to travel or communicate with a court in Norwich. I have written to Mr Djanogly again to press home this point and will be trying to agree a meeting with him in the coming weeks.
Finally, I am very pleased to say that my new constituency office in Surrey Street in the centre of Lowestoft is now open and I look forward to meeting as many people as possible at my regular surgeries which will be held there from 27th November.
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