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Marden playground saved!

A children’s playground has been rescued from demolition after local residents brought their MP into the fight.

Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant was approached by Marden resident Anna Fisk, who also runs Marden Children’s Centre, after failing to secure council funding to maintain the play area in the Cockpit, Marden. Worse still Ms Fisk heard rumours that the play area may be removed completely.

After visiting the playground and meeting with local residents, Helen wrote to Maidstone Borough Council, made further extensive representations on behalf of the parents and children of the Cockpit and arranged a meeting with William Cornall, the newly appointed Director of Regeneration & Place at Maidstone Borough Council.

The playground is one of two in Marden. The council felt that children from Cockpits should be able to walk to the other playground without realising that many were much too small to wander unaccompanied or play without supervision. At their own playground they can be viewed by parents and carers from their own homes much more safely.

Mrs Grant was therefore delighted to receive a phone call from Mr Cornell on Friday 4th November in which he confirmed that MBC have commissioned repairs and maintenance to the value of £2,500 to take place on The Cockpit’s Playground with works commencing within 3 weeks.

On hearing the news, Helen said: “I am delighted by Maidstone Borough Council’s sensible decision to spend this money in a very valuable and needy area of my constituency. This small change will make the world of difference to local children and give them somewhere to play, have fun and just be kids.”

Anna said: “I am hugely satisfied that the Council has seen the importance and the worth of ensuring that the children who live on the cockpit estate, continue to have their own safe place to play. I am very happy that the council realise that such a simple low cost decision could have such a hugely positive impact on our community. We will always fight to keep our children’s right to play.”

MP demands fairness for Kent on Europe’s unaccompanied children

‘National Dispersal System is urgently needed’ says Helen Grant

Unaccompanied children debate
Helen speaking in the debate

In a Commons debate about ‘Unaccompanied Children’ yesterday the MP for Maidstone & The Weald intervened to highlight the tremendous pressure facing children’s specialist services in the County of Kent.

For many months now there has been a steady influx of refugees and asylum seekers from Europe and accommodation for children and younger people is already reaching its limits.

With the advent of the Lords proposed clause 69 amendment to The Immigration Bill 2015-16, which calls for the establishment of a scheme to relocate to the UK a further 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe, Kent will face unprecedented further demands unless something is done urgently;

Helen Grant says there should be a fairer system. In the debate she said ‘Kent County Council has an overwhelming caseload of unaccompanied, vulnerable and needy children for whom to care. Does he [David Burrowes MP – leading the debate] agree that not enough local authorities will help out and take those children identified by Kent and that much more co-operation is needed between local authorities’.

Helen believes that Britain should be doing something to help these very vulnerable children but, whatever the outcome of the Immigration Bill, a National Dispersal System should be introduced to ensure the needs of further incoming people are supported evenly across the country.

Mrs Grant is a member of the International Development Select Committee and a Trustee of the Human Trafficking Foundation. In her work she has encountered great concerns for the welfare of a very significant number of stranded children who have fled from war torn regimes in the Middle east and Northern Africa. According to the EU’s criminal intelligence agency, Europol, at least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared after having arrived in Europe. Many are feared to have been exploited by pan-European criminal gangs and trafficked to unknown destinations to be sexually abused and used as slaves.

Following the yesterday’s debate Helen said ‘these children may also succumb to the horrors of trafficking unless we act quickly. I will be meeting with Minister James Brokenshire tomorrow (20th April) to see what more can be done’.

Helen Grant meets with Public Health Minister regarding Meningitis B vaccine

Helen Grant MP
Helen Grant MP

Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant and her neighbouring colleague Helen Whately MP have today met with Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison MP to discuss the meningitis B vaccine. This comes after the tragic passing of local toddler Faye Burdett on Valentine’s Day and the subsequent online petition which has gained over 780, 000 signatures.

The jab was introduced as a part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme in September 2015, and is available to all babies born after July 1. The programme included the vaccine at aged 2 months old, with boosters at 4 months and 12 months. The petition calls for this practice to be extended to all children up to age of 11, in the hope that another family do not have to experience a loss such as Faye’s.

Mrs Grant read a statement from 2014 produced by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) who advise the Government on immunisation matters, regarding men b vaccines. Within this the JCVI agreed to review the impact of an infant programme within two years. That time period expires next month.

On meeting with the Minister, both MPs expressed their serious concern at the situation, Helen Grant MP said: “In our discussion today, the Minister confirmed that she will be responding to a debate in Parliament on the matter, a date for which is yet to be set. I was also informed that prior to this, the petition committee will be holding an evidence session. I hope that the Government will look closely at the arguments presented. I will continue to monitor the situation carefully and my thoughts and prayers remain with the Burdett family.”

Improved central Government funding for rural councils following heavy lobbying campaign from Kent MPs

Helen Grant MP
Helen Grant MP

Helen Grant MP together with her Kent MP colleagues have successfully lobbied the Secretary of State for a better deal for Maidstone and for Kent.

Central Government plans to de-centralise local government funding over the course of this Parliament were seen as not only too severe but also widened the settlement gap between urban and rural areas where the cost of council service delivery is higher.

Now the Government has accepted the argument by providing an extra £150m in transitional funding for each of the next two years. Overall Kent will receive an additional £5.68 Million in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Maidstone specifically will receive an additional £221,641 in 2016-17 and £171,971 in 2017-18.

Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone & The Weald said “Together with my colleagues across Kent we have lobbied central government heavily for a better deal and we have succeeded. The settlement is still tough but it is certainly an improvement. Our joint letter to the Prime Minister set out our stall and I for one have also personally lobbied DCLG Ministers in Westminster to try and achieve a reasonable transition”.

“Crucially we have also managed to gain a review of the outdated formula being used to allocate central funding during the transitional period. This will now take into account demographic changes affecting the high cost of service delivery to our ageing population in sparsely populated rural areas”.

Helen Grant MP welcomes Comprehensive Spending Review

Maidstone & The Weald MP Helen Grant has welcomed the Chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

Commenting on the various measures announced today she said “There is much to be pleased about in this review for the people of Maidstone & The Weald and for the County of Kent generally; an agreement to fix a new pupil based formula for Fairer School funding, a firm and funded commitment toward fixing Operation Stack, a £250 million National Potholes Fund, better flood protection through new defence schemes, rebuilding and refurbishing our schools and more”.

“This Autumn Statement delivers on the promise my Party made to the people of Maidstone & The Weald during the election, that we would put their security first; Protecting our economic security by taking the difficult decisions to live within our means and bring our debts down; protecting our national security by defending our country’s interests abroad and keeping our citizens safe at home.”

Fant Farm and Medway Valley given extra protection

Cllr Stephen Paine
Cllr Stephen Paine

Stephen Paine writes: “On Tuesday this week, the Spatial Planning and Transport Committee accepted my proposal to include Fant Farm and the orchards off Rectory / Glebe Lanes in the Medway Valley Landscape of Local Value! (All this land had been excluded in the first draft).

It’s been a long journey to reach this point.

It started with a petition several years back, which specifically targeted landscape protection (we collected 1400 signatures!), and a lot of hard work after that to ensure the area was recognised in the council’s Landscape Character Assessment (2012). This document guides landscape policy in the local plan. I made sure back then that ‘views to the south’ were a key characteristic picked up in the report, and this gave the land sufficient ‘score’ for members to agree this week that it should be given extra protection and included as a Landscape of Local Importance (at long last!).

A Landscape of Local Value, in planning terms, is an area recognised by the council as the next most important tier of landscape after AONB and national park status. This is a quite significant victory in our 8 year battle to protect the Medway Valley – and I’m pleased we’ve finally reached this point. I was always confident we would get there, because the evidence is in our favour – and the ground work has been done over the past 8 years to lead to this eventuality.

Save Fant Farm
Helen Grant campaigning with residents to Save Fant Farm

Other parties supported us, and residents, in opposing housing on Fant Farm – but only our work has built up a sound evidence base to justify protection within planning policy itself.

This isn’t the end of the battle though, let me make that clear. Gleeson are still likely to put a planning application in – but they will now find another big barrier to overcome before getting approval.”

Local MP joins Alzheimer’s Society for Festive Fundraising and Carols at Maidstone’s Mall Shopping Centre

Helen Grant joined the Alzheimer’s Society at Maidstone’s Mall Shopping Centre on Friday singing festive favourites fundraising for people with Dementia.

Helen with the carol singers
Helen with the carol singers

Alzheimer’s Society staff and volunteers provide local information and over 2,000 services across the UK to people affected by dementia in their communities. Their local services include day care and home care for people with dementia, as well as support and befriending services to help partners and families cope with the demands of caring.

Helen said “I was delighted to join staff and volunteers from the Alzheimer’s Society raising money for such an important cause.

“Dementia is a heart-breaking disease that affects many families across Maidstone and the Weald and the country, and it was touching to see how many people stopped by for a chat and to donate.

“The Alzheimer’s Society do fantastic work supporting families in our communities and it’s so important, particularly at this time of year, that we remember those families that are suffering and need our support.”

You can learn more and donate here: http://www.alzheimers. php?homepageID=224

Shadow Helen competition extended!

Aged 16 to 18?

Interested in politics but don’t know where to begin?

This competition may be right up your street!

Hannah Pontet and Leah Maclean (2011 winners) pictured on the Terrace at the Houses of Parliament
Hannah Pontet and Leah Maclean (2011 winners) pictured on the Terrace at the Houses of Parliament

Get to know your MP, visit Parliament, witness House of Commons debates at first-hand, gain work experience alongside MPs, Government Ministers and local Councillors, and take a front row seat on the campaign journey to one of the most exciting General Elections in recent years – on May 7th 2015.

This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in politics and our democratic process, the experience is unique and it is easy to apply. All finalists will be offered a day of Westminster work experience – subject to availablility and Parliamentary timetables.

Entrants must be aged between 16 and 18 in November 2014 and live, or attend school, within the boundaries of the Parliamentary Constituency of Maidstone and The Weald. Click here to check the map. Application forms and guidance notes download links are at the foot of the home page at or email, or write to ‘Shadow Helen 2014′, Helen Grant MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Telephone enquiries to 020 7219 7107.

Extended deadline for applications is Midnight on Sunday 30th November 2014

Tourism Minister Helen Grant finds out what makes a successful apprentice

Helen Grant at McDonalds maidstone

Helen Grant MP is on a mission in her role as Tourism Minister to find ways of bringing more skilled people into the British Hospitality industry and reap the many benefits of the ongoing boom in the sector.

Apprenticeships are becoming more and more important in developing new recruits and McDonalds in Maidstone’s Week Street has just awarded certificates to nine young people who have completed a two year course there.

Helen visited them all to present their certificates and find out more;

She said “McDonalds say they only pick applicants who show self-belief and a desire to achieve. This one branch of McDonalds is a multi-million pound business, so they need to find the right people for their ongoing success. Every one of the nine Apprentices said they felt so much more confident in themselves after the training, ready for almost any challenge. Four are already in management roles within McDonalds. Some others are going on to university and college. These could be the leaders, movers and shakers of tomorrow’s hospitality industry. I wish them well, wherever their careers lead them, and in such a great industry that could be almost anywhere in the world, and at any level”.

Sports Minister Helen Grant presents prizes at Maidstone Riverbank fundraiser run

Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone & the Weald and Minister for Sport, joined a merry band of fundraisers on the riverbank in Maidstone to welcome almost 150 runners home this Sunday.

Helen with Carol Holden from Staplehurst
Helen with Caron Holden from Staplehurst and two other fun runners!

It was the third year of the Maidstone Riverside Run, a fundraiser for Cancer research organised by Staplehurst resident Caron Holden. It is in memory of her mother, Sandra Briffa, who lost her own fight with the disease in 2010. The run raised £3000 last year and it is hoped that they will exceed that in this year’s event.

This race is very different from most runs as it starts with a train journey from Maidstone to Wateringbury and competitors run the 8.6k riverside path back from there, finishing in Maidstone town Centre.

Helen Grant said:

“Caron’s event is a marvellous example of communities working together, having really healthy fun and raising much needed money for charity. I was delighted to come along and I was so pleased for everyone involved that the weather was utterly glorious”.