Ripley & Heanor Column – 14th April 2017

Social care is a pressing topic at the moment and a matter which I know is of concern to many residents of Amber Valley. Our social care system cares for over a million people, and I pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of carers who work in it, yet the system is clearly under pressure. Current funding is not keeping pace with demand for health and social care services which is why the Public Accounts Committee, on which I sit, has recently launched a new inquiry into Integrating Health and Social Care. This inquiry aims to look into how public money is being spent, focusing on integration between health and social care provision. This approach creating genuinely people-centred coordinated care, is a necessary step alongside other strategic measures.

I welcome the Government announcement in the 2017 Budget that additional grant funding of £2 billion will be available for adult social care in England over the next three years, with £1 billion available this year ensuring that councils can start to fund more care packages immediately. However in pursuit of a longer term solution I hope that the inquiry, started before Easter, will result in meaningful recommendations to help guide local authorities and health bodies in finding ways to manage and meet demand more effectively.

As one of the MPs who voted against the UK taking part in military action against Assad in Syria 4 years ago, many constituents have asked for my views on the recent bombing by the US of the chemical weapons depot in Syria. The use of chemical weapons was first outlawed in 1899 and the use of them, especially on civilians, is deplorable.

In a US-Russia brokered deal in 2013 Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons. His retention and use of Sarin gas was not only a breach of international law but also the agreement he signed up to. It was right therefore for the US to launch a strike to prevent the further use of these weapons and I would have voted for such a strike.

A one-off strike against the chemical weapons facilities is however very different to what was proposed 4 years ago. I still do not believe that the UK and US intervening in Syria to depose Assad would bring about a more stable country or reduce the suffering of the Syrian people. The risks of intervention are high, with Russia and Iran potentially backing Assad, and the likelihood of a peace-loving democratic government being formed very low.

I therefore believe the Prime Minister is right to continue to pursue a political solution and convince to end its support for the Assad regime.

Finally, I would urge all Amber Valley residents to respond to the consultation on the latest draft of the local plan. The deadline is the 28th April. This plan sets out where new housing should be built in Amber Valley in the period to 2028 and includes several new sites, most notably the plan to build on green belt near Denby as part of a major development that includes 1100 houses, business parks and a new a38 access. I have always believed that we should protect our green belt and so I will be opposing this proposal.