Working for the future of Bedford & Kempston

Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017. 


I am all for cost-saving measures by the Council, but the proposal to convert the Civic Theatre in to a “one stop shop” for council services is daft.  The Civic Theatre should remain in its role as a dignified part of our cultural community.  Has the Mayor no sense of the value of amateur productions  – of plays, of music, of other cultural events?  With vast swathes of the town’s retailing locations vacant, is there no other building available?  Why wreck the role of a key building when alternatives exist?

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Talking with the inspiring Rakesh Ram at Community LD, a town centre group that provides training and support for people seeking employment, I got a clear understanding of what a crushing burden the top down, bureaucracy beloved of Prime Minister Brown can be.  Rakesh is local, highly motivated, experienced and capable. In short, he is exactly the sort of person that someone in Bedford would want to turn to get advice and encouragement.  However, because of the intrusive, restricting and obsessive requirements of the bureaucracy, Rakesh finds much of his time taken up by the requirements of form filling, and less of his time available for doing what he loves to do –serve the needs of his clients.

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As the Prime Minister of this discredited Parliament was heading to the Palace to seek a dissolution, we were looking forward to electing a new Government under David Cameron’s leadership, by winning the key seat of Bedford and Kempston.

Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, highlighted the importance of winning the seat by making Bedford the first stop in his countrywide campaign to stop Labour’s Job Tax.  Labour’s proposed tax on jobs would hit local people hard – many are already struggling to find work, with local unemployment way up on the regional average and nearly double what it was when Labour came to power in 1997.  Labour’s Job Tax will snuff out, not nurture, the recovery and to listen to Labour ministers claim that it would help employment just goes to show how out of touch they are.

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Labour’s campaign literature continues to feature stories that are meant to scare people about supposed Conservative party policies.  I have mentioned the Sure Start Scare in an earlier post – but now there is more!  The target for this round of Labour’s smears and unfounded fears are the elderly.  See the Beds on Sunday article here.

Literature from the Labour party delivered in Bedford and Kempston tries to insinuate that free bus travel will not be safe under the Conservatives.  As this is a complete fabrication, and because the Labour party know that they are not telling the truth, their leaflets are “spin” at its worst.  Shame on the Labour Party for treating the electorate like this.

With people’s trust in politics so badly shaken by this departing Parliament,  I call on the Labour MP for Bedford and Kempston to disown the Smears and Unfounded Fears that are becoming a hallmark of his campaign and join with me in a “clean election pledge” that will concentrate on the issues and on the facts and on our competing visions for the future of our town.

Richard with participants in the Evening with the Entrepreneurs Event at Bedford College

The question that is most on the minds of people when I chat with them on the doorstep is “What can we do about the economy?”

People know that the country’e economy is in a mess – and they will render their judgement on those responsible when the time comes.  They know it is tough to answer all the questions; that there is no magic wand that can wave away the colossal debts racked up by the Government.  What people are looking for is a clear way forward and for leaders who can inspire confidence and who can lead.

Well, Bedford College was the venue in late March for a panel of leaders of business and social enterprise; people who can inspire, who have led, and who had very clear views of the way forward.  Their audience was the next generation of leaders – those in our upper schools, our colleges and other young people who have an idea, an inspiration of their own – and who were looking for advice and guidance about how to move forward.  You can see a video clip from Local News TV below:

Hosted by Irfan Latif, Deputy Head of Bedford School, the panellists took turns to describe their passion for what they do, how they got a start in life and what drives them forward.  First up was Adele Blakebrough, a pioneer in social enterprise and founder of the Breakthrough Foundation.  Damon Buffini, the Chairman of Permira spoke next and spoke of his work with Fairbridge, a nationwide charity that helps young people in to work.

Tim Campbell, the winner of the TV show “The Apprentice” spoke about the motivations from his childhood, about working with Alan Sugar and of his current project, The Bright Ideas Trust, that invests in businesses started up by young people in London.  Next up was our own, Lance Haggith, founder of Sports Traider and he was followed by Shaa Wasmund, who spoke directly of the drive that came from her experiences at school and which led her to work for Chris Eubanks, Bob Geldof and James Dyson.

Sparking, nurturing, investing behind and supporting entrepreneurial talent is the key to our country’s future success.  We have enormous talents here in Bedford and Kempston, and also across our nation – talents that can revolutionise our social services, create breakthrough ideas and build world beating companies.  Government can help to enable those who aspire; it can break down barriers that inhibit people from stepping forward with their idea; it can encourage people to take entrepreneurial risks; it can reward those who succeed from those risks, and for those who fail, give them a second chance to learn from their mistakes by trying again.

It was an exceptional panel discussion, expertly hosted by Irfan Latif who managed to draw out common themes and produce a vivid picture of entrepreneurship that can inspire a new generation of Bedfordians.

Caroline Spelman & Richard Fuller with Dawn Giles from Bedford Creative Arts and Nick Gibson from Sight Concern

When Caroline Spelman, the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities visited Bedford, I wanted her to meet with the people leading Consortico.

I am a big fan of Consortico – a new initiative by local charities that serve our community in Bedford, Kempston and the villages.  Consortico helps the charities to work together to bid for public sector contracts more efficiently and effectively than they could if they operated individually.

The effectiveness of charities in helping people in need is well known, but because they are so careful with their money, charities often have limited resources available to prepare all the paperwork and administration necessary to bid for local and national government contracts.  As a result, they often miss out on opportunities to extend their good work and we, the people, miss out on their skills, care and compassion.

I believe Consortico is on to a big idea – and they deserve our encouragement and support for a new idea that in the future we could be proud to say “Started and Based in Bedford”.

I was shocked at the highly personal tone taken by Bedford’s MP in his attacks on the Head of BPHA recently.  While I share the concerns at the sudden and sharp increases in utlity charges and service fees for some BPHA customers, I don’t think abusing the head of the organisation will be effective in getting BPHA to amend its policies and do something to help those hardest hit.

I went to see John Cross, the Head of BPHA , to press the case for re-consideration and to see if there was any latitude to reduce or delay the fees increases.  He listened and I felt that I had the opportunity to make the case on behalf of residents more effectively than grandstanding for the press.  Whether my effort will result in a change, we will have to wait and see; but I am hopeful and will continue to make the case as effectively as I can.

When a Government has run out of ideas, run out of policies, run out of money and run out of credibility, its only resorts are smears and unfounded fears.  So it is with this Labour Government and their literature campaign as they gear up for the upcoming election here in Bedford and Kempston.

My support for SureStart in Bedford and Kempston is clear.  I have had the pleasure to visit many of the local centres and was delighted to be able to give my personal assurance and support for their continued funding.  I blogged about this and my commitment is open and clear to see.

Not only that, but David Cameron has pledged his full support too.  Not only do the Conservatives support Sure Start but Mr Cameron has pledged to strengthen it by providing 4,200 new Sure Start health visitors to provide universal support to families with children under five.

So why does the Labour Party here produce a leaflet headlining that Sure Start Centres are under threat?  That is clearly untrue and they know it – but when your record in government is in tatters, when you have nothing positive to say, no vision to offer – smears and unfounded fears are all you have left to offer.  The people deserve better.

Richard at the run for Sports Relief in Bedford Park

I took part in the Sports Relief Mile at Bedford Park on Sunday, running 3 miles in a disappointing time, but enjoyed the event immensely.

It’s great that people are willing to give up their time for such a great cause. The turnout was fantastic and the event organisers did a really good job of cheering us on as we went along – it really helped motivate me to do another lap!

As for my time – well let’s just say, I don’t remember the Park being so big when I was a kid running around.