Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and the Weald, stepped up her campaign to stand up for pensioners on Monday 2nd March 2015 following a huge survey of older residents across the constituency.
Mrs Grant's Survey has generated over 1,000 responses so far on a range of transport issues including parking, bus services and trains. Replies are still coming in.
The MP for Maidstone and the Weald launched the campaign after receiving a number of letters from pensioners about problems with travelling. One letter in particular caught her eye which she also wrote about in her weekly column in the Kent Messenger on 7th November last year, generating further responses from Constituents.
Below is an extract from that letter from a gentleman resident of Vinters Park, Maidstone:
"'Dear Miss Grant, Most pensioners need a bit of extra space to get in and out of a car. I personally have to open the door fully, so as to swing both legs out and get both feet on the ground before standing up...Some of my neighbours, need a hand to get from a seated position,(especially in a car) to a standing one. We are not disabled, just pensioners. In a supermarket car park, spaces are tight, so we tend to use parent and child bays. And we do get some flak from certain parents..... I was thinking that carrying a badge which said 'I am a Pensioner and need extra room to exit my car, thank you for understanding' perhaps would help'.
Helen included the issue in her recent survey and 74% of the 1071 respondents so far have agreed that parking spaces were too small and something needed to be done.
Mrs Grant has today written to key stakeholders responsible, presenting them with the survey and requesting a response within the next 10 days; Supermarkets, Local Authorities, Shopping Centres and hospitals are among the many organisations being approached by Helen.
The survey also revealed that of those respondents that use bus services in the constituency, 51% recorded problems. A quarter of those complained about late or unreliable services operated by Arriva, and a further quarter said that the frequency of services posed difficulties.
The MP for Maidstone has held two meetings with Arriva in recent months on similar issues and has set up a new subcommittee of parish councillors and residents to review progress. In addition, Mrs Grant has convened a meeting with the Renown Group and Kent County Council on Friday 6th March to discuss the frequency of rural services in and around rural Wealden villages.
A fifth of respondents also expressed frustration at being unable to use their bus pass before 9.30am, particularly as hospital appointments so often require travel at peak times. Additionally, many residents are worried that they may lose their free bus pass altogether. This was an issue originally raised by residents of Harmsworth Court in Benenden whom Helen visited in November 2014.
The Prime Minister, last week, guaranteed to protect these vital pensioner benefits, including; free bus passes, TV licences, prescriptions, eye tests and the winter fuel allowance in the next Parliament should he remain Prime Minister.
Helen will also be taking up the 9.30am restriction issue with Kent County Council and the relevant bus companies.
On train services operated by Southeastern, the main concern raised by respondents was the price of tickets and overcrowding.
MP Helen has held two meetings on these issues with senior management at the rail company in the last 6 months. She also recently wrote to the Transport Secretary, securing promises of extra capacity, more staff, better information and increased services over the next 3 years.
Lack of public toilets & State of Pavements
Finally, two further key issues raised were the lack of accessible public toilets in Maidstone town centre and the state of pavements throughout the constituency: be it obstructions caused by parking and overhanging bushes or poorly maintained and uneven surfaces.
Mrs Grant will be convening a meeting with Maidstone Borough Council and Kent County Council to address these issues as a matter of urgency.
Commenting on her survey, Helen said:
"My survey of pensioners across Maidstone and the Weald is about empowering older people to ensure their voices are heard on the key issues that affect them.
"Lack of adequate transport and pensioner friendly amenities are two such issues that can cause isolation and I'm determined to address them as part of my campaign to stand up for pensioners.
"We have a strong voice for action and we are already making progress.
"I'm taking up these issues with key stakeholders and will be setting up meetings with local authorities as part of my plan for action".
"It's our fundamental duty to care for the needs of our older citizens and as MP for Maidstone and the Weald I will always fight for their interests both locally and in Westminster"
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