Nick's Week, March 2008

West Sussex County Times article

I spent a good part of last weekend on the train, going up to Durham to visit the prison, then on to Newcastle for the Conservative Party's Spring Conference and a meeting with the Northumbria Probation Service, then back to London again, and then down to West Sussex.

When I arrived in Hurstpierpoint it was pouring with rain and very cold, but that didn't deter 700 local people from marching to protest about the proposed development of 1,500 houses between the village and Burgess Hill.  We need more affordable housing, but it doesn't make sense to build on a flood plain, and the local infrastructure can't support housing on this scale.

On Monday I went to a school in Hackney to meet the famous footballer Luis Figo, who was launching a new global campaign to fight tuberculosis.  I managed to resist my researcher's helpful suggestion that I should go in goal, in front of the nation's press, to see if Figo could put one past me.

On Tuesday we voted on the Bad News Budget.  I voted against higher business taxes, higher alcohol taxes which will penalise 43 million people (not just binge drinkers) and higher taxes on so-called gas guzzling vehicles (which will actually affect three quarters of cars).  People are already paying too much.  It's time government delivered value for money.

The political event of the week was the Commons vote to suspend post office closures, which saw the Government's majority reduced to just 20.  On the same day, I attended a reception in the Commons in support of village halls.  I met representatives from West Sussex who explained how hard it is to raise money to improve them.

As the event organiser said, village halls are central to rural communities.  Like post offices, they are an immensely important community resource.  If we want thriving villages, we need to preserve the services which are at their heart.

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20 March 2008

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