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Westminster Blog: My Friday catch-up

Richard Benyon talks about staying grounded in his constituency

Andy Murrill

Richard Benyon


01635 886625

Westminster Blog: My Friday catch-up

Constituency Fridays are a high point of my week.

They keep you grounded. You find a reality often missing at Westminster.

Last Friday started with a meeting with a locally-based scientist who wanted to share with me some brilliant work she was doing at the National Oceanographic Centre at Southampton. Oceans are a passion of mine and I could have spent all day talking to her.

Next came a meeting with Thames Valley Community Rehabilitation Company, the organisation tasked by the Minister of Justice to deliver a probation service for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Unlike in the past they get paid by results. They manage about 5,000 offenders and their job is to make sure they don’t reoffend. Obviously this is a massive issue, even in a low crime area like West Berkshire. For every criminal who does not reoffend there are more law-abiding people who do not become the victims of crime.

I then spent an hour in Newbury’s Jobcentre. I went to hear how the first month of the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) had gone. UC is nothing short of a revolution in welfare. It replaces six means-tested benefits and tax credits. UC has been rolled out slowly to iron out as many problems as possible along the way.

The good news is it has so far had a soft landing in West Berkshire with Jobcentre staff, many of whom who have worked in welfare for decades, saying that it is better for their clients and better for those who administer it. I was impressed that they are working closely with West Berkshire Council and Citizens Advice and that their work coaches are getting people into proper well-paid jobs. This sometimes involves home visits.

 In the afternoon I met with the leadership team at Newbury Town Council. We discussed the improvements being made to Victoria Park and the imminent publication of their Town Plan. It sounds as though this will be an ambitious and forward-thinking plan that will guide the development of Newbury for decades. You can have your say in a consultation which will start when the plan is agreed by councillors.

Then back to my office for a meeting with Berkshire’s Chief Fire Officer and the chairman of the Fire Authority. It was an opportunity to ask about the tri-service centre at Hungerford where the fire and rescue service sits alongside the police and ambulance services.

At the other end of my patch they are building a new fire station at Theale, close to where the Newbury, Wokingham and Reading West constituencies all meet. In closing two stations and replacing them with this state-of-the-art facility response times will improve. Good news from west to east.

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Article comments

  • gamstaman

    17/01/2018 - 01:01

    "UC is nothing short of a revolution in welfare". You absolute retard! This new "revolution" is causing people to starve, become homeless and commit suicide and you think that is a success? I dont agree with what happened but im also not surprised you received that awful letter, no doubt it was from some one whos life you have ruined with your successful UC. MP's are not fit for the job as they have never lived a working persons life!!!


  • EugeneStryker

    16/01/2018 - 13:01

    Just for a bit of balance. It was Tory MEPs, Benyon's pals and chums, that tried to prevent EU legislation to impose an 80% reduction in the use of single use plastic bags despite a million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals dying from ingested plastic. I wonder if the same MEPs worked for plastic bag manufacturers? Thames Valley Community Rehabilitation Company is owned by MTCnovo, the probation watchdog called their performance in London as poor and in particular criticises a lack of awareness of domestic abuse and child safeguarding issues - welcome to privatisation of the probation service! The Tories have slashed the Fire service budget by 30% and they can expect another 20% reduction by 2020. So they'll de-fund the service, then let G4S take over and then all of the money will reappear in massive contracts for the private sector and Tory donors. The West Berkshire CAB has also suffered massive cuts, again supported by Benyon, but as he says the criticism is water off a duck's back


    • SimonKirby


      16/01/2018 - 15:03

      Good points all EugeneStryker, well said.