Local MP Douglas Carswell last week took part in a House of Commons debate on the train service to Essex.
Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, raised concerns about the quality and frequency of train services for East Anglia counties. Other MPs highlighted the poor level of infrastructure and trains in use. The trains minister, Claire Perry MP, focused on the need for new rolling stock.
The franchise is up for renewal in October 2016, with FirstGroup and National Express bidding for it, along with the current operator, Abellio. The deadline for the bids closed on December 17.
In the debate, Douglas raised the issue of Network Rail corporate governance. Douglas said that:
"Regardless of who is awarded the franchise, does the Minister agree that unless we address the fundamental issue of corporate governance and accountability, and the underlying problem, which is Network Rail and its mediocre service, we will not see the transformative change she wants?"
In her response, the minister said that "we have made huge progress on Network Rail's governance. It is now an arm's length body." The minister did not directly address Douglas point that real change is only possible with tackling the way Network Rail is run.
Douglas has repeatedly and consistently raised the issue of the unaccountable corporate governance of Network Rail. Network Rail became a central government body in the public sector in September 2014, which means that its £30bn debt is now part of the government's accounts.
After the debate, Douglas made clear that:
"Clacton commuters, and indeed all those who live in Essex, desperately need a better rail service. Changing the franchise and even introducing new rolling stock are of course welcome, but simply won't solve the key problem.
"Network Rail has a labyrinthine governance and accountability structure which must be addressed. Time and again, transport ministers have come to the House of Commons and insisted that they are powerless to introduce real reform of the body, because of the arm's length nature of Network Rail.
"I'm sure Sir Peter Hendy is well qualified for his new role at Network Rail. But the government must lay out a plan which stops repeated failures. These effect commuters and franchisees up and down the county."
Douglas Carswell this week welcomed the news that Tendring Council will encourage vulnerable residents to make use of energy firms' free services.
Tendring Council's Rural Infrastructure Working Party has recently promoted energy suppliers' scheme which seek to offer free help and assistance, such as priority reconnection if supply is interrupted, and free quarterly meter readings. British Gas, for instance, has a free yearly gas safety check.
In addition to these free services, many households also struggle with heating a home. Heating costs can be especially burdensome for the elderly, with the most recent government figures showing that households with an occupant over 60 have a fuel poverty gap of £450 on average. Such schemes, however, do not specifically address heating costs.
Douglas said of the council's announcement:
"It's right that the council encourages constituents to make use of these services. Constituents come and see me who struggle to make medical appointments or see family because the big energy firms make it hard enough.
"Whilst this won't directly address energy costs, I think it also helps to highlight that energy firms are still getting away charging the most vulnerable high amounts.
"Those who are older or struggle to get around will have higher heating costs for their home. I think the energy firms should recognise that and provide some additional help."
Douglas Carswell MP this week asked the government to better address constituents' concerns about the future of Jaywick.
In a written question response from Brandon Lewis, minister for housing and planning, the government said that a Jaywick Coastal Community Team plan is to be completed by January 2016. Douglas also asked about what resources are being provided to improve the quality of housing, with the government responding that:
"Tendring Council received £1.8 million in New Homes Bonus in 2015-16 and a total of £5.2 million since the scheme started in 2011-12."
Douglas met with Ian Gunn, a local Brooklands campaigner, to support a local petition which condemned the way that Jaywick and Brooklands are portrayed through TV documentaries.
Douglas went on to say that:
"For too long, Brooklands and Jaywick have been ignored by central government and Tendring Council
"It's great news that real action seems to be on the way through the Community Team, but local residents know all too well that problems haven't been addressed for many years. I look forward to seeing the new economic plan for the area and how it progresses, and I'll continue to press the government for its implementation."
Local MP Douglas Carswell welcomed the government's decision in the Autumn Statement to cut Short Money funding to political parties, following UKIP's lead.
Short Money is public funding for non-government political parties, which must be used to support their parliamentary operations. Using a pre-determined funding formula which takes account of seats and votes in the general election, UKIP's entitlement this year was over £650,000. Douglas refused to spend that amount, returning hundreds of thousands of pounds back to the taxpayer.
The Chancellor announced on Wednesday that this taxpayer funded support would be cut by 19%, in part because UKIP forced a rethink on the matter. By not taking the full Short Money allowance, Douglas has demonstrated that Westminster politics can be done for less.
Other opposition parties are opposed to the cut. The Labour Party, which is entitled to £6.3m, described the move as "despicable."
Douglas said that "this is fantastic news for taxpayers up and down the country. The big establishment parties simply don't get it that politics can be done for so much less than they think. I made clear after the general election that UKIP would be taking some, but nothing like all, of the allocation we are allowed.
"Three cheers to Tendring Council for cutting their allowance by 16.5%. If local government can deliver more for less to the people of Essex, so too can Westminster and central government."
Local MP Douglas Carswell this month raised the problem of illegal traveller camps in and around Clacton.
Travellers have been moving around the constituency to different sites in St. Osyth, Great Holland and most recently the Martello Car Park in Clacton, sometimes causing real problems in our communities. In a written question response from Brandon Lewis, minister for housing and planning, the government made clear that police already have existing powers to direct those not authorised to be on land to move on. The minister also said that:
"The Government sent the summary of powers document to all Council Leaders, Police Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners in England."
Some of those powers, contained in the 1994 Public Order Act, gives the police the ability to move on travellers, particularly if they have caused damage or offence.
Douglas went on to say:
"It's right that Essex police has the power to do something about this. But I also think that Tendring council and our police and crime commissioner need to do more about this problem.
"For too long, people around the constituency have had to endure the nuisance that some of these travellers can cause. The powers to do something about this are there, so it's high time the PCC and the council had a real plan to deal with it."
Douglas Carswell met this week with Brooklands residents to discuss the way TV programme makers have misrepresented our area.
Ian Gunn, a local campaigner from Brooklands, gave Douglas a petition signed by over 1000 people who feel let down.
The petition objects to TV programmes made about Jaywick. Douglas has promised action for local people over the subject matter of the shows.
Douglas went on to say:
"Over the past few months, a mockumentary has been made about our area. It is designed to sneer and denigrate Jaywick, so I'll be writing to Ofcom, the TV regulator, about it.
"Any company with a licence to broadcast has a public interest obligation when broadcasting. These programmes simply cannot be viewed as part of that public interest. Ofcom should seriously consider whether these programme makers should have their licence."
Local MP Douglas Carswell has raised with the government the dangers of curtailing stop and search powers for Essex Police.
Douglas asked what assessment the government has made of changing the guidelines for stop and search, and the effect it might have on knife-crime in Tendring. The response from the minister of state for policing, Mike Penning, said that "No assessment has been made of the effect on knife crime or other offences... statistical evidence does not suggest a clear relationship between changes in the use of stop and search and knife crime."
The new guidelines were introduced by the coalition government and clarify what constitutes reasonable grounds for suspicions. They amended existing stop and search powers and came into force in March 2015.
Douglas said "I am slightly worried about the government's apparent lack of concern over how stop and search powers operate. It's right that those in the police who abuse their stop and search powers face consequences. But I fear that PCs on the beat might feel uncomfortable using them at all, with the unintended consequence of rising knife crime as a result."
Douglas will continue to ensure that police stations across the constituency remain as well staffed as possible. Last week, he voted for a Labour motion which called on the government to protect frontline police work and slow the reduction in funding over the next few years.
Douglas Carswell has this week submitted parliamentary questions to the Department for Transport asking what more can be done to help Tendring commuters.
The franchise, currently held by Abellio Greater Anglia, will potentially change from October 2016. Currently, C2C, part of National Express, First East Anglia and Abellio Greater Anglia all plan to bid for the franchise. Abellio has been plagued by numerous problems and low commuter satisfaction since taking on the franchise in 2012.
"Only this morning, we saw yet another series of delays and misery for Tendring commuters trying to get to work. Abellio's announcement last week that they'll spend £700,000 on a spot of carriage cleaning is too little, too late."
Douglas has submitted questions asking what more can be done to improve the frequency of service and ensure that the new franchisee is held to a higher standard.
I've written a paper with someone in my Westminster team, Duncan Simpson. Do have a look:
Douglas Carswell MP has called for direct ministerial intervention to sort out the problems at Colchester Hospital.
After a litany of failures at the hospital, many of which have affected Clacton residents, regulators have been called in following a highly critical report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which drew particular attention to the hospital's surgery and medical care inpatient wards.
Douglas is very disappointed after writing to the Department of Health about what more can be done for Colchester Hospital patients. A response from the care quality minister, Ben Gummer, said "I do not believe that Ministerial intervention into the Trust is warranted". Instead, assurances that a "multi-agency risk summit" and a buddy support system from Basildon Hospital were offered. Monitor, the NHS foundation trust regulator, is also awaiting a comprehensive inspection report the CQC before taking further action.
Douglas went on to say:
"Colchester Hospital has had months to get its act together. Whilst bureaucrats meet to talk about what's gone wrong, the people who rely on those services carry on suffering from the foundation trust's ineptitude. The government now needs to step up and get involved directly."