One of the best things about my job is meeting so many people who are working for positive change, writes Ruth…
Sometimes it’s in their local community, sometimes it’s because an unimaginable tragedy has struck their lives and they want to protect others from suffering as they have and sometimes it’s because they see something wrong in the industry they work in and are determined to right it.
This month I was lucky to have the opportunity to celebrate three incredible change-makers in Rushcliffe. Jill Mathers, the founder of the Cotgrave Community Kitchen, joined me, and the Prime Minister, at 10 Downing Street for a reception to thank Community Champions from across the UK.
Jill and her incredible team of volunteers run the Cotgrave Community Kitchen, which collects food that would otherwise go to waste, from local supermarkets, ‘sell’ some of the produce in their local supermarket, for a nominal donation, and use the rest to cook hot meals for local community groups.
They also grow their produce in the Cotgrave Community Garden which helps support over 160 people every week. Congratulations to Jill and the whole team at CCK. Keep up the amazing work!
I also had a wonderful morning in Parliament with Sarah King and Claire Dunn, founders of Obu.
We have campaigned successfully together, to make one of the Government’s flagship enterprise investment schemes (The Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) more accessible to female entrepreneurs.
I was proud to introduce them at the launch of the Charter for Inclusive Entrepreneurship at Nottingham University’s Business School last Friday, where their work was being showcased.
We’ve had a very busy month in Parliament, with the Budget – my take on it is here, a vote on the central part of the Windsor Framework and the introduction of the Illegal Migration Bill to Parliament.
The Government also launched its £160 million Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan.
I’m really pleased that Nottinghamshire has been chosen to pilot one of the two flagship programs in the plan – the Immediate Justice Scheme.
This l will make sure that people found committing anti-social behaviour take responsibility for their actions, repairing the damage they inflicted on victims within 48 hours of the crime.
Actions could include picking up litter, removing graffiti or washing police cars and victims will also be given a say in offenders’ punishments to ensure that perpetrators directly pay back the communities affected by their crimes.
Police will also have new powers to tackle local drug dealing and higher fines will be issued, with fines for graffiti and littering rising to up to £500, and up to £1,000 for fly-tipping.
I work closely with Nottinghamshire Police, flagging issues that many of you raise with me, and I will continue to do so to see how effective these measures are.
Water quality is another issue that is often raised with me. This month we made some good progress, with the water regulator Ofwat’s announcement of new rules to stop water companies from paying their shareholders dividends unless performance, environmental and financial targets have been met.
This is thanks to powers granted to Ofwat in the Environment Act 2021, giving them the ability to take strong enforcement action. I also met with the CEO of Severn Trent, Liv Garfield, and the Minister for Environmental Quality, Rebecca Pow, to discuss how we can improve the water quality of the River Trent.
Both the minister and Severn Trent have agreed to a meeting with key stakeholders such as British Canoeing and the National Watersports Centre.
On the international stage, the UK has also led the way on water quality, taking a major role in the negotiations on the UN High Seas Treaty.
This is the first treaty of its kind that will protect international waters, the parts of the ocean that lie outside of national boundaries. 30% of the world’s international waters will be placed into Marine Protected Areas by 2030.
These areas will put limits on how much fishing can take place, the routes of shipping lanes and exploration activities like deep sea mining.
I wrote about this ‘30by30’ campaign back in 2021, when I said the UK is in a prime position to lead this global initiative after the success of our Marine Protected Areas and Blue Belt programmes. You can read more about this here.
Finally, last week I met the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove to discuss my response to the Government’s consultation on reforming the planning rules in the National Planning Policy Framework.
As you may know, areas like ours have over-delivered on house building. In 2021 alone, Rushcliffe had 660% over the constituency average for new homes registered. Many of these homes were often built on greenfield sites when they should be built on nearby brownfield sites in the city.
I made clear to the Secretary of State my support for the end of the ‘Duty to Cooperate’ mechanism. This is a legal rule that allowed neighbouring councils to put their housing allocation onto Rushcliffe, instead of building their fair share. It has contributed to the vast increase in housing in Rushcliffe in recent years and meant that, instead of regenerating brownfield land in Nottingham, more houses have been built in Rushcliffe’s countryside. I also emphasised how important it was that areas like ours, that have over-delivered on housing, can take previous house building into account when setting housing targets.
Like so many of you, I want to protect the rural character of Rushcliffe. I support sustainable house building but determining housing needs should take into account local factors, such as protecting the rural character of an area, protecting greenfield land and mitigating flood risk.
Along with this, we also need greater protections for greenfield land, not just a focus on greenbelt land to prevent inappropriate development in the countryside.
I understand how important this issue is to us in Rushcliffe and so I wanted to make our views heard at the highest level. I look forward to working with the Secretary of State on his reforms and making the planning system work better for Rushcliffe.