Francis Maude: Innovative and caring community
Another glorious weekend in sunny Sussex on Friday and Saturday, and it was as usual a pleasure to discover more things I didn’t know about Horsham and remind myself of what a vibrant and lovely place it is.
Recently I was at a charity reception at 10 Downing Street, hosted by Samantha Cameron, in aid of Hop, Skip and Jump. This organisation aims to provide specially equipped public wcs in every high street for changing disabled children and adults who are otherwise often left to make the best of a dirty floor in a cubicle.
I was very proud to see that both of the two mothers who were invited to speak, and did so movingly, were from Horsham, so we set up a meeting on Friday with the charity, councillors and HDC staff to discuss how we might go one step further and provide a small centre for respite care during shopping hours.
Most of us are lucky enough never to have needed such a facility, and if Horsham were to be the first UK town to provide one it would mark us out as a forward-thinking and caring community.
If anyone can offer an empty shop unit or other premises for a pilot scheme, please get in touch. We are hoping to ensure that such a small centre is permanently provided in one of the new-build retail schemes, but it would be fantastic to get going with a temporary one more quickly.
I then made a visit to Mickel Motorsport at Faygate, which is covered elsewhere in this paper. John Mickel is the only British driver to have reached the highest levels of NASCAR, a hugely popular sport in the US which has not really caught on here yet.
John is hoping to secure sponsorship and coverage for his driving, which is a great opportunity for a British firm hoping to get more brand visibility in the US where the events are attended by hundreds of thousands of spectators and watched by even more on TV. I did try sitting in one of his cars but was glad not to be photographed trying to get out of it again.
I then had a good conversation with teachers about pension negotiations, workload and morale, and was much encouraged by the open and friendly tone, as I hope they were too.
I was able to reassure them there have been very open negotiations with the unions on public sector pension reforms which I led for the government alongside Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
My surgery on Friday included some particularly harrowing cases this time, and I really hope that I can secure good outcomes for some constituents who are in deep difficulties.
Last week I also had a meeting with Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, about various issues over Gatwick airport which I will report on more fully when I have heard back from him about the points raised.