Derby Telegraph column – 14th December 2016

Over the last month, there have been some welcome announcements for our local area in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, and I’m pleased that parliament has recently endorsed the Prime Minister’s March 2017 timetable to trigger Article 50 – beginning the process of Britain leaving the EU. However, there’s also been a scandalous further delay in the Access for All project at Alfreton Train Station.

I’m very disappointed that works to provide step-free access to both platforms at Alfreton Station will now be delayed until at least 2019. These long-planned and desperately awaited improvements had been due to start earlier this year but, following a review by Network Rail, the scheme has again been postponed.

The awful current situation at Alfreton means disabled or elderly travellers and cyclists are only able to access the northbound platform. Disabled passengers using the station therefore have to go to Nottingham or Chesterfield first, due to the lack of suitable access. This causes many people inexcusable delays and inconvenience, and excludes them from using their local station.

The latest deferral is particularly intolerable as the Government has allocated billions of pounds for large new infrastructure projects, which are welcome, but shouldn’t be at the expense of denying access for all to the transport services we currently have.

Since the decision, I’ve already raised the issue again in the House with the Secretary of State, to see if the Government’s recent announcement on more autonomy for the Network Rail teams and private sector operators can be utilised to mean that the improvements at Alfreton can be done with local rail budgets.

I will continue to make the case for these vital improvements and keep pushing for the works to be started as soon as possible. To support this, I would urge my constituents who are affected by the continual delays with this project to get in touch with me, at nigel.mills.mp@parliament.uk or on 01773 744341, so that I can highlight to the Minister the personal struggles, delays and problems the current inaccessibility causes.

Despite this setback, there has been some good news for local infrastructure projects recently. I’ve been supporting Queen’s Medical Centre’s bid for a new helipad at the East Midlands Trauma Centre in Nottingham, and I’m pleased that the Chancellor has confirmed £1.3 million of LIBOR funding (from fines levied on banks). This will allow the project to go ahead – and save many more lives in our region.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement also allocated £1.462 million to Derbyshire to fix more than 27,000 potholes in 2017/18, or stop them forming in the first place. This is welcome news for Amber Valley residents, many of whom have contacted me to express their frustration about the awful state of many of our roads. So, I’ll be encouraging the Council to make full use of their funding allocation locally.

In addition, constituents will be helped by  further increases in the personal tax allowance (to £11,500 from next year), new policies to improve saving rates, a rise in the National Living Wage, and a tax cut for people who receive Universal Credit.

The Chancellor also supported my pre-budget joint campaign and froze fuel duty for the seventh consecutive year. This will save the average car driver £130 annually and put even more money back into constituents’ pockets in the run up to Christmas. With this, I’d like to wish all readers a Merry Christmas and a happy new year.