Westminster Report by Anna Firth MP for Southend West
February 3rd marks the end of my first year as your Member of Parliament – and what an absolutely exhilarating experience it has been so far!
My core belief in putting ‘people before politics’ has fuelled my daily fight for Leigh and Southend. I think it’s now important to take stock of what has been achieved over the last 365 days and look, with optimism, to the future.
When I was elected, I promised you I would work tirelessly to improve the local healthcare system in Southend. Too many constituents were left waiting for urgent 999 care whilst ambulances were queuing outside A&E and patients weren’t leaving Southend Hospital due to care package delays.
Twelve months of lobbying later and I am pleased to have delivered on my promise.
We’ve got 111 new paramedics, 11 new ambulances, a new £1.2 million outpatient building, an enhanced bridging service, two ambulance handover units and an expanded discharge centre worth £960,000.
Most importantly, I have been working relentlessly to secure a vital £8 million Government investment into the Emergency Department at Southend Hospital. I am delighted to tell you this cash injection has now arrived, allowing the hospital to redesign the A&E and meet the needs of residents both now in the future.
These achievements help streamline the entire hospital journey, with urgent care starting sooner as patients ready for discharge are released back into the community at greater speed.
Safer streets The mission of safer streets in Southend is also a cornerstone of my plan to improve our great city. Our local Southend Police Team is the absolute best in the business, and I have enjoyed working with Inspector Paul Hogben and Essex Police to tackle crime and protect our communities.
The Government supported my calls for an expanded force, and we now have at least 20 more police officers patrolling than we did before. Bobbies on the beat are vital for bringing down crime rates, which Operation Union has proven by targeting hotspot areas.
I also helped secure the funding for new state-of-the-art electronic knife poles. Knife crime has blighted our community, so I am thrilled that we now have these on the streets of Leigh and Southend with more on the way soon (watch this space)! In addition to this, I am calling for a change in the law which currently allows dangerous ‘zombie knives’ to be kept in private possession through a loophole in the Offensive Weapons Act.
This has allowed reckless retailers to cash in on crime and bring weapons to our city by circumventing the law. Thankfully, my campaign is working.
I have now had face-to-face meetings with the Minister for Policing and the Home Secretary, and look forward to updating you on these important actions to keep our streets safe soon.
I also want Southend to be a city of real opportunity – from receiving the best education possible to having everything you need to set up a thriving business.
Therefore, I had the real pleasure of welcoming the Minister for Apprenticeships to South Essex College last month, showing him how we are marrying educational aspiration with economic opportunity by providing an impressive range of apprenticeships and T-Levels.
Facilities Bolstering our educational facilities in Leigh-on-Sea has also been at the forefront of my work, lobbying the Government to get vital cash to Blenheim Primary School which will allow them to repair classrooms badly damaged in the storms last February.
Thus, I was delighted to help secure the news that it was one of the of 239 schools across the country receiving financial support from the £1.8 billion School Rebuilding Programme. I’ve also been leading the charge on creating a public transport system suitable for a city.
My wish-list is being fulfilled, after securing £350 million worth of funding to implement accessibility lifts at Chalkwell Station, a new fast train on the C2C line in the morning, a redirected First Essex route 3 bus to cover areas left isolated after previous cuts, and a commitment to introduce local train stations to the Oyster-style contactless system by 2024.
Finally, I owe you a heartfelt thanks for being my amazing constituents and providing me with the joy of representing you in the Houses of Parliament every day. There isn’t a Minister safe from me telling them just how great our community is. Guided by my mission to improve healthcare, make our streets safer, and create a city of opportunity, I truly believe the sky is the limit for Leigh and Southend.