Cat Smith column: The nation is being led into chaos

Coun Cheryl Raylor, Coun Mary Stirzaker, Cat Smith MP and Peter Williams, Back on Track, with a petition calling for a new rail link for Fleetwood
Coun Cheryl Raylor, Coun Mary Stirzaker, Cat Smith MP and Peter Williams, Back on Track, with a petition calling for a new rail link for Fleetwood

The Fleetwood MP says she fears the worst in the event of a 'chaotic' no deal exit from the European Union, and outlines new moves in the campaign for a rail link for Fleetwood

Events in Parliament are changing as I write this column, so I don’t know if by the time you’re reading this it will be out of date.

But I just wanted to say that I have always been very clear, in all my comments and communications that a ‘no deal’ exit from the European Union would not be something I’d support and is a failure of negotiations. In 2017 I was re-elected with 55 per cent of the vote on a clear policy platform of opposing no deal.

The government has not adequately prepared for it and I’m not prepared to risk the lives and livelihoods of my constituents by facilitating that.

While I’d welcome an election, and have no faith that the current government looks after the people of Fleetwood and Lancaster, my priority is making sure the unelected Prime Minister can’t force a chaotic ‘no deal’ on the country by suspending Parliament or by trickery with a date of a general election.

This week, our children and their hard-working teachers returned to their classrooms.

After sitting at the Cabinet table agreeing to years of real terms pay cuts for teachers, Boris Johnson and Gavin Williamson have finally admitted that austerity has failed our schools. But even now, teachers will have to wait years for the promised pay rise, and there is every chance that if there is a disastrous no-deal Brexit this will be yet another promise that isn’t kept.

With recruitment targets missed for six years running and teachers flooding out the classroom, we need urgent action to retain the most experienced teachers, as well as recruit new staff. It was deeply alarming to learn from leaked documents last week that Ministers are planning an attack on vital support staff such as teaching assistants – they can’t tackle teachers’ workload by axing the staff who support them.

A Labour government would not only end the Tories’ cuts to schools and pay, but restore standards for school support staff, and create a national teacher supply service to tackle the workforce crisis.

While the country faces a constitutional crisis, I’m remaining focused on my commitment to bring back a rail link between Fleetwood and Poulton.

For the past 12 months I’ve been very involved with Blackpool Transport’s plans for further connectivity on the Fylde coast, specifically the potential extension of the popular tramway in Fleetwood.

Some of the most deprived areas of the country are in our area, with chronic health issues and a lack of opportunities blighting the lives of many people in Fleetwood.

The absence of reliable, good quality transport links and the fact Fleetwood is not on the rail network, remain a major barrier to the redevelopment and investment needed to transform the area.

I firmly believe that now is the time to seriously explore the potential for new transport links, and I am fully supportive of Blackpool Transport’s requirement for a feasibility study to build upon their December 2018 Fylde Coast Transport Report.

I’ve written to the Department for Transport asking them to fully fund the estimated £1.5 million cost for a feasibility study. This week I’ve also brought a petition organised by Coun Mary Stirzaker down to Westminster to put on the desk of the Prime Minister.

It’s been signed by 3,000 people in Fleetwood and calls on the Government to get the town back on track and reinstate a rail link that will ensure the people of our town have the same access to opportunities that is enjoyed in the south of the country.