Summer weather is when Blackpool and Cleveleys are at their best, and we have for once been blessed with a stretch of fine weather, whether for the Classic Car Show in Cleveleys, Rod Stewart's appearance at Bloomfield Road, or the many who are journeying here to see Mamma Mia.
It all underlines the importance of the visitor economy to Blackpool, and why we need to do all we can to safeguard it. The campaign to reduce Tourism VAT which I have been championing a while is stepping up a gear in the coming week – Sun readers may well spot a fair bit about the Fylde Coast in it. I think the arguments that it will mean more money for the Treasury have now been accepted – I just need to work on fellow MPs in seaside towns to add their voice to mine to make this happen.
- Other good news on a similar front was confirmation that pleas from both myself and the Council to defer the work on Yeadon Way which necessitates its closure can be deferred until after the Illuminations. All money had to be spent on pinch points by March 2015, so a deferral of the finishing date at least ensures one of our busiest times of the year isn't adversely affected in any way.
The good weather has also encouraged Team Maynard out on to Blackpool and Cleveleys doorsteps, having got into the habit in the run-up to the European elections. Spending time knocking on doors is never time mis-spent, and the interactions are always 95% positive. It's particularly good to meet so many readers of the Letter from Westminster. I was amazed how some even send it to relatives as far afield as Canada and New Zealand – what they make of me in Vancouver, I can only wonder! Rest assured we are working on the cases raised as fast as we can, but never be afraid to call in to chase up action.
Summertime also means an upsurge in weekend activities for me to get stuck into – one reason I didn't get a chance to do a Letter last weekend, so forgive me if we have a high-speed bullet point whizz through my Westminster, Blackpool and Cleveleys activities.
It has been a bit of a hospice fortnight. The Together for Short Lives charity, which represents children's hospices nationwide, had a Westminster briefing which I attended. Regular and attentive readers will know that I was campaigning for better funding for children's hospices from well before I ever even dreamt of becoming an MP – inserting a pledge in our 2001 and 2005 manifestos. Getting a better deal for Brian House is something I will always want to see – and it was a pleasure to see the outcome at the Trinity Hospice & Brian House Open Day on Friday where the new renovations, which I helped lobby for extra NHS funding for, were revealed to public view. Those who have been before and go again will see it has been entirely transformed. What was great before is now superlative. We hope we never need hospices, but that day will come for many sadly – but we are so fortunate to have Trinity and its army of 900 volunteers here on the Fylde. I always say it is one of the most joyful places in the constituency – and those who go there, know what I mean.
- The Royal Life-Saving Society also held a briefing event. I have two constituents, Mr & Mrs Holt, who run classes up in Fleetwood in life-saving, but I'm keen to do as much as I can to promote awareness of what is available, and I've had a promise from their Chief Executive to have a follow-up meeting dedicated to what more can be done on the Fylde where I fear water safety awareness among our young people is not what it should be – and is one reason we have a sad litany of tragedy on our seashore. Knowing what to do isn't difficult, and can make all the difference.
- I got a chance to ask a question at International Development questions about ensuring any aid for Nigeria is targeted at improving governance matters given the difficulties they seem to have in tracking down the poor kidnapped schoolgirls – not to mention many more in that benighted country.
- My All-Party Group for Young Disabled People held a meaning on improving accessibility on the high street - many of the attendees made the point that just because they can now buy almost anything online doesn't mean they should be discouraged from the high street. We normally get good attendance from the private sector we are investigating in these inquiries – but the shopping chains were conspicuous by their absence. We're seeing their trade body, the British Retail Consortium, in September for some real answers.
- Was visited at my Blackpool office by the Unity College RE and Fair Trade Forum pupils for some searching questioning – as ever.
- I also paid a visit to Montgomery School to meet the head the day after the OFSTED report which produced such a surprising outcome. A full response here would treble the Letter's length, but do let me know if you want a copy of how I see the issue – a good school doesn't become a bad school overnight, OFSTED is raising the bar across Blackpool as a whole (at my urging) as we remain below where we should be, like many seaside towns across the UK. But Montgomery's staff I know remain dedicated, and I have great confidence they will be an outstanding school when OFSTED return next year.
- A 'thank you' tea for all our helpers, canvassers, envelope stuffers, tellers and everyone else at Bispham Cons – "Team Maynard" is the largest it has ever been, and I was concerned we were going to run out of scones at one point. New people come along all the time – and new perspectives are a great help to me.
Lastly, but certainly not least, the last week in June has become entrenched in Blackpool as Veterans Week. The dinner for 850 – yes, 850 - at the Norbreck Castle is a highlight for so many, with such compelling musical entertainment from the Blackpool Brass Band this year. It remains as humbling as it ever was, especially with the centenary of World War One and 70th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings, to see those who gather at the Arboretum on the Friday and the Cenotaph on the Sunday to remember that those who did not return with them gave their tomorrows for our today.
Paul Maynard MP