Tag Archives: Therese Coffey

Epilepsy debate: House of Commons 26 Feb 2015 – 2pm

Caroline Page
Caroline Page, County Councillor for Woodbridge. Suffolk 

Update 26-02-15:

Well, who gave a damn? I attended the epilepsy debate in the Commons on Thursday, taking time off from a very busy working life (working remotely on the train), bearing the cost of travelling to London, sitting in the Visitors Gallery –all to watch 16 MPs talking – as if for the first time – about Epilepsy.

Can I repeat that, SIXTEEN MPs, out of the 650 elected (17 if you include the Deputy Speaker, the Speaker himself being otherwise engaged!) and paid for by us to represent us. But alas – the others must have been  too busy and important to speak. We visitors wholly outnumbered those MPs in the chamber –  the 5 Tory MPs out of 302 (1 in 60); 7 Labour MPs out of 256 (1 in 36.5) and 4 LibDem MPs out of 56 (1 in 14). There were no MPs from Suffolk at all! My MP Therese Coffey who cannot speak (because she is a Whip) did not take me up on the offer of a briefing neither did she brief anyone else to speak on behalf of her voiceless constituents. I have epilepsy, so does my daughter, and we can tell from personal experience over many years that the problems for people with epilepsy – regarding transport alone – are immense in a rural area such as Suffolk Coastal.

If we are going to adhere to the old-fashioned Parliamentary system, having an MP who is a Whip would seem a very good reason not to re-elect her next time round – why should we in Suffolk Coastal be deprived of representationin such a debate  just because the parliamentary Conservative party needs party officers?

The larger picture is that clearly the majority of MPs don’t see support of epilepsy as any kind of vote winner – although 1% of people will suffer from a seizure sometime in their life and this will affect a lot of people beyond themselves.

Listening to the debate (and why on earth debate ‘Epilepsy’ rather than a sensible question regarding Epilepsy, anyway? Its like debating ‘Act of God’ or nailing jelly to the ceiling!) it seemed as if many of those speaking were hearing about the effects and problems of epilepsy for the first time. Others were using the debate to raise such individual examples as to be of very little use to the wider picture considering this was the first time this subject had ever been debated. It was more as it they were name-checking their constituents!

As one person concluded afterwards in an internet group I belong to: “Major issues ignored in the epilepsy debate, carers, (child and adult); modern indentured labour; Schooling; Multidisciplinary System neglect; Abuse and discrimination.. So many other things..”    She is quite right!

And these speakers are the people we have been relying on to represent us. I was deeply depressed. You can read the debate here .

 

Original post

Epilepsy is and has been overlooked for years. So now that Laura Sandys – one of two MPs ever  to  admit to their epilepsy –  has managed to secure a debate in the House of Commons,  will it be to the bog-standard empty chamber?  Will your MP be there? Write and ask them!

I sure as hell hope my MP, Therese Coffey, will be. And so, of course,  I wrote to ask her. As follows:

Dear Therese,

You will not be surprised to find me writing to you to urge you to attend the forthcoming  parliamentary debate on Epilepsy (26th February 2015; House of Commons; at 2pm)! The debate has been secured by your colleague Laura Sandys, one of two MPs, both in this parliament, ever to admit that they have epilepsy – even though epilepsy affects 1% of the UK population.

This resonates with me. There are thousands of county councillors across the country: however, I appear to be the only county councillor who is up-front about having epilepsy and thus prepared to support my constituents (and yours) with the fallout from this condition. Epilepsy has a profound impact on matters as varied as transport choice, education outcomes, career prospects, medication,  life expectancy etc etc. Our failure to recognise epilepsy or these impacts has knock-on effects that can cause ripples throughout society.

One of these constituents  is my daughter, failed over and over again by a country that is unprepared to allow her the chance to contribute and yet is deeply reluctant to support her by even educating or medicating her appropriately.  This is a ridiculous waste of public money and human potential.

I have a number of issues to raise concerning the treatment and expectations of people with epilepsy in the UK in general and Suffolk in particular – with specific reference to our situation in Suffolk Coastal. However it would seem inappropriate to waste your time and mine unless I know whether you are going to be attending this debate. If you are (as I hope you are) I would  be very happy to give you a briefing without prejudice or party-political bias on this very important issue

Best wishes

Caroline

District Council Boundary Changes – how do you want Woodbridge to look?

DO you know about the Woodbridge proposed district council boundary changes? Will they matter to you?

Our local MP, Therese Coffey has suggested, and the Local Government Boundary Commission propose extending the Woodbridge district ward out to Great and Little Bealings and Hasketon.

If you think this isn’t sensible – or if you do – get onto the Local Government Boundary Commission website and join the consultation: they want to hear from you. You can even use their interactive map to draw an improved version! You have until 28 April.

I personally do not think it is geographically sensible, nor do I think it fits any convenience or criterion other than that of mere number crunching. (And that to a degree that is by no means essential to any argument.) My colleagues agree with me.

This therefore is the submission that your Woodbridge Lib Dem Councillors at County, District and Town have submitted to the LGBC:

We, the elected Liberal Democrat Councillors representing Woodbridge, wish to comment on the draft proposal, with particular  reference to paragraphs 91 to 96.

We accept the arguments by all who put the case that Woodbridge and Martlesham North be regarded as a single electoral area, the latter being effectively an overspill allied to the town of Woodbridge.   There is no suggestion by any of those putting cases as to how to redraw ward boundaries to make these 3 single member wards, and we cannot see any clear arguments for such a re-drawing.   The territory would thus logically fit a simple 3 Councillor ward, being entirely urban, and geographically compact.   The elector figures for 2014 amount to 6428 and for 2019 to 6544; both figures lie quite comfortably within the outside variation of 10% from the norm sought.

However, the proposal by the local M.P., supported by the Inspector, that the rural parishes of Hasketon with Great and Little Bealings be lumped in with Woodbridge does not appear to meet the terms of reference requiring a reflection of identities, local ties and identifiable boundaries.   None of the criteria set out are satisfied, except the convenience of playing with numbers.

The Bealings villages are tucked geographically beside Playford, Culpho and Grundisburgh;  the Inspector’s recommendation for a Grundisburgh ward with fewer that average electors could absorb the two Bealings parishes, thus combining genuinely rural parishes in a single ward.   Hasketon, which the M.P. and the Inspector suggest should fall into a Woodbridge ward, is also sited beside Grundisburgh, with common borders aligned also to Boulge, Burgh and Debach.   Any logical view of a Grundisburgh-centred ward should therefore include Hasketon, even if this results in an electorate marginally above the average.

We suggest furthermore that a large ward centred on the urban population of Woodbridge has no conceivable common interest with Hasketon (population 314), Great Bealings (230) or Little Bealings (360), with the added problem that these 3  parishes are the ‘wrong’ side of the A12.

Woodbridge is a sizeable, compact town with a population over 6000.   Its character and identity over the last half century owes much to the early by-passing of the A12, making Woodbridge a sought-after destination for visitors, beneficial tourism, yachtsmen, shoppers and property buyers.

We can see no logic in pretending it has interests or character in common with Hasketon or either of the Bealings parishes.   Furthermore, the two Bealings parishes recognise themselves as having a commonality with Playford, with whom they have produced a joint Neighbourhood Plan, recently accepted by the District Council as appropriate.

We therefore conclude that our suggestion for a Woodbridge ward boundary falls within the terms of reference of the exercise, as does our definite proposal for excluding Hasketon and the two Bealings.   Thus we recommend a 3 councillor ward comprising Woodbridge and Martlesham North.

Signed on behalf of Woodbridge Liberal Democrats by

Caroline Page, County Councillor 

Diana Ball, Town and District Councillor

Kay Yule, Town Councillor

Vic Harrup, Town Councillor

Patrick Gillard, Town Councillor