Howard's Way 2 March 2006

Contributed by editor on Mar 02, 2006 - 12:06 AM


HOWARD'S WAY.... a weekly column from Michael Howard MP

March 2006<IMG height=195 hspace=10 src="images/michaelhoward3.jpg" width=130 align=right vspace=10 border=0>

Last Friday I spent an hour volunteering at Shepway Volunteer Centre in Folkestone. This was to celebrate the Year of the Volunteer. My task was to take calls about the Centre’s transport service which provides invaluable help in transporting people to and from hospitals and clinics in the area. This is a tremendously important service and I was very pleased to have the opportunity of experiencing its workings at first hand.

From there, I went to the Council offices for a meeting between the Shepway Business Forum, which I Chair, and the District Council. The purpose of the meeting was to review progress of the Shepway Regeneration Partnership which is designed to assist in the regeneration of the area. As everyone knows exciting plans are on the way and I think it is important that they are carried out in a way that will maximise the effectiveness of the area to businesses and jobs. 

Next step was St Mary’s Primary School to watch a Skip2Bfit demonstration after which I presented certificates to those who has performed best. The demonstration was most impressive and I am entirely persuaded that the fitness advantages of regular skipping are considerable.

Next stop was the Royal Victoria Hospital where I was shown the site for the new Walk in Centre and also visited Edinburgh and Fitton Wards which are under threat of closure. I have made it clear that I am wholly opposed to any suggestion that patients at the Royal Victoria Hospital should be transferred to Buckland Hospital in Dover and that the wards should not be closed unless there is an absolute assurance that alternative provision can be made in Folkestone. I have made these views repeatedly to the Primary Care Trust and am awaiting their response.

Then it was back to the district council to talk to the Election Registration Officer about the fall off in the registration of service voters. The Government have recently changed the rules so that service voters have to register every year if they are to preserve their right to vote. It used to be the case that service voters could register at the beginning of their service career. Unfortunately many service voters were unaware of the change. It seems to me quite wrong that those who fought for the people of Iraq to vote should themselves be denied the vote because of these administrative obstacles. It is not too late for service voters to register in time for the General Election and if you know any of them, please encourage them to do so.

Last stop on Friday was a Fish and Chip Supper with the newly elected Councillors of Sandgate Parish Council. This gave me an excellent opportunity to bring myself up to date with recent events in Sandgate.

On Saturday, after my advice centres, I went to a lunch organised by the Hythe Rotary Club to celebrate the centenary of the Rotary movement. I was surprised and honoured to be given, together with nine others, a certificate recognising 10 years of service to the community of Hythe. I was deeply flattered to receive this award and am most grateful to all concerned. That was followed by a very well attended AGM of the Folkestone and Hythe Conservative Association.

In the evening, Sandra and I went to a presentation of the Shepway and Dover Osteoporosis Support Group. A very significant sum of money had been raised to help the victims of this cruel disease which can cause so much pain and suffering. It was another example of the kind of volunteering work to which we owe so much.