Cat Smith column: The council needs to stop the dithering, and get Fleetwood back on track

Fleetwwod Swimming Club members held a beach clean recently
Fleetwwod Swimming Club members held a beach clean recently

In her column this week, Cat Smith MP calls for renewed efforts to improve Fleetwood's transport links, takes the Goverment to task over cuts to special educational needs funding, and praises a local group for helping to clean up the environment

Once again local councillors, volunteers and I have been highlighting the need for better transport links in Fleetwood. Yesterday I had a really interesting visit to the Jameson Road site.

Volunteers have made impressive inroads into clearing and creating a section of the old rail line to ensure that future services will be able to connect to a new station, Fleetwood Central, close to the Fleetwood Marsh Nature Reserve.

Fleetwood needs its trains back. We have one road in and one road out for a town of 28,000 people. Public transport doesn’t work if you live in Fleetwood. Preston is a two-hour bus journey away. I appeal to Wyre Borough Council – stop dithering, pay for a feasibility study and let’s get the people of this town moving again with all the additional benefits of inward investment and job creation.

Many of us either have a learning disability or have a child with additional needs – and you’ll know how distressing and difficult it is to access services when we need them most. New research by the National Education Union has revealed that special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision has been cut by £1.2 billion since 2015. That’s an eye watering amount – and these findings are supported by the numbers of families who write to me expressing their worries and fears for their children who they say are are being left behind.

Austerity is a political choice. It doesn’t have to be like this. It’s disgraceful that the most vulnerable children in our society are paying the price for Tory cuts. Education is a right, not a privilege, and these cuts mean that in one of the richest countries in the world children with special educational needs are not receiving the support they need. Ministers should be utterly ashamed that as a result of these cuts parents have been forced to take their own government to the High Court to demand their children receive the education that is theirs by right.

Despite the scandalous austerity measures the Tories have failed on the deficit – they promised to eradicate it by 2015, then 2016, then 2017 only to have missed all these targets. Yet the damaging policy of austerity remains.

HMRC, the UK tax collection agency, estimates that the overall cost of tax avoidance in the UK in 2016-17 was £1.7 billion, and £4.4 billion was lost through tax evasion in 2013/14. £34 billion is the total value of tax that goes uncollected each year. Labour believes in reducing inequality by reversing planned tax giveaways for the super-rich like Capital Gains Tax reductions and planned cuts to Corporation Tax as well as clamping down on tax avoidance.

Now to a huge well done to Fleetwood Swimming Club. Recently many of the club’s swimmers, their parents (and pets!) spent a day collecting rubbish on the beach – they did an amazing job coming away with sackloads of detritus. Thank you everyone. The swimming club has been going since the 1970s and currently has more than 200 members. It prides itself on having a friendly family atmosphere and encouraging swimmers of all ages and abilities.

If you’re interested you can pop down to a club night at Fleetwood Pool on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7pm. Amateur Swimming Association qualified coaches will give you encouragement and advice and the club offers a good social environment and opportunity to enter events, club galas and open meets.

I’d like to wish you all a very happy Easter and hope you get to spend time with the people you care about and the opportunity to crack open a few chocolate eggs!