Monthly Archives: October 2011

west coast line franchise extension

Rory has welcomed news that the Department for Transport have agreed an extension of the existing franchise with West Coast Trains and Virgin Rail Group from April 2012 until the start of the new franchise, significantly improving services on the West Coast Main Line and bringing good news for Cumbria’s economy.

Rory said: “This is fantastic news for all who travel up the West Coast, and in particular for the north Lakes region. Penrith is always a busy station, and is clearly a thriving stop-off point on the West Coast. This eight-month extension of the franchise enables train operators to increase the number of Pendolino trains on the track, and the lengthening of the trains from 9 to 11 carriages means that there will be far less overcrowding of standard-class seating, meaning that more visitors can comfortably travel to appreciate our wonderful part of Cumbria. This will be a real boost to the local economy and tourism industry.“

Rory has also lobbied the Minister of State, Theresa Villiers, to include in the franchise tendering document a commitment to significant upgrading of current platform access at Penrith station, arguing that the existing barrow-crossing is of danger to those who have no option but to use it.

He said: “Increased traffic through Penrith means that we must address the issue of access between platforms 1 and 2. The new franchise presents an excellent opportunity for us to request that bidders commit to upgrading Penrith Station in order to have lift or ramp access to platform 2. The barrow-crossing is not adequate, and can be dangerous. I will continue to lobby Ministers to ensure that this commitment is included in the tendering documents for the next franchise that will be released early in 2012. I encourage anyone who agrees with me to contact the Minister to express their views also.”

Over the course of the extension, three new 600-seat Pendolino trains will be added to the line, in addition to the new Pendolino which entered service in July 2011. It has also been announced that 31 of the existing Pendolino trains will be lengthened from 9 to 11 carriages, increasing the number of standard-class seats on each train by almost 50% from 320 to 470. In all, 106 new carriages are being introduced on the route, making 28,000 extra seats available each day, an increase of 25%.

Minister of State for Transport Theresa Villiers said: “This will relieve crowding on some of the busiest parts of the West Coast Main Line, which is one of the UK economy’s most important transport corridors.

alston community ambulance

Rory has written in strong support of the Alston community ambulance to the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) Trust’s Director of Performance and Patient Experience, Sarah Byrom. The Penrith and the Border MP, who has long championed the valuable service carried out by the ambulance in the Alston Moor area, said that “the community ambulance is a testament to the resilience of the area” and has offered to chair a meeting with the Parish Council, the League of Friends of Alston Hospital, and NWAS in November to try and collaborate on a solution that would mean retaining the service for the residents of Alston Moor.

Rory said: “The community ambulance has been running since 1952, supported unstintingly by the local community and local authorities. None of us wish to see Alston lose its ambulance. Considering Alston’s location and low population, there is a demonstrable need for an ambulance service in this locality, and the loss of the ambulance now would leave the entire area without out-of-hours medical cover. I have offered to chair a meeting with NWAS and local stakeholders, and hope that we can discuss a mutually beneficial solution that will mean Alston keeps its ambulance.”

cumbria community messaging service

Rory has signed up to the new Cumbria Community Messaging service, an initiative that will help people across Cumbria stay up-to-date with issues in their community, from local crime to major incidents. Cumbria Community Messaging allows anyone in Cumbria to get up-to-the-minute information on a wide range of community issues by email, voicemail or text.

The project is being led by the Cumbria Neighbourhood Watch Association with support from Cumbria Constabulary, Cumbria Community Safety Partnership and Cumbria County Council’s emergency planning and trading standards teams and fire and rescue service.

Rory said: “This is a great service for those who want to keep updated of important incidents in their locality. It’s free to receive information and members can choose the things they would like to receive information about and how and when they get it. Alerts on a range of community issues will be sent out through the system, such as information on emergency incidents and bogus sales people, or fire safety events. It also gives members the opportunity to respond with information about a particular crime, a local scam, or even a missing person. Cumbrians can keep each other informed about matters of real importance through a collaborative, real-time system which will help us overcome the real issues of isolation and sparsity that we all regularly contend with.”

Dr John Perkins, Chair of the Cumbria Neighbourhood Watch Association, said: “This service takes the basic idea of neighbourhood watch – neighbours looking out for each other – and brings it right up to date to get information out to communities fast. Why not sign up to the scheme now, and give it a try? Go to to register. If you think it’s a valuable service please spread the word to family, friends and constituents.”


cumbria’s national citizens’ service graduates

Rory, on Tuesday evening welcomed some of Cumbria’s graduates of the National Citizens’ Service programme to Westminster to congratulate them on their hard work this Summer, and to discuss their pivotal role in helping to make the Government’s pilot initiative such a resounding success.

Rory welcomed graduates Isla Cooke (QEGS), Rachel Dodd (Trinity Carlisle), Megan Downes and Katie Storey (both of Ullswater Community College), and Youth Support Workers from Connexions Cumbria Erica Blagg and Lynne Hullock to Portcullis House and chatted with them about their experiences over the Summer. The graduates were in London for a celebration party hosted by the Cabinet Office and Orange Rock Corps to celebrate the fact that 8,500 young people across Britain participated in NCS this year, and on the back of the pilot’s success this number will increase to 30,000 in 2012 and – it is hoped – 90,000 by 2014.

Rory said: “Cumbria should be rightly proud of the role it has played in making NCS such a success; the Prime Minister himself visited the programme earlier this year on what was an extraordinary day. This is a scheme that has at its heart a sense of duty and pride in the community. I pushed very hard for Cumbria to be a national rural pilot, and a sign of its success is the plans to increase the number of participants next year. This is wonderful news. Many detractors say that this might be a waste of money, and that is par for the course with any new initiative: these young people have obviously had a really exciting, fulfilling time. This is an excellent project to have been involved in, and I’m very proud of it. I’d like to congratulate all young Cumbrians who graduated from NCS this year – thank you for making it such a success.”

In Cumbria, Connexions Cumbria – in partnership with the Outward Bound Trust – ran forty groups during the Summer, in which over 400 young Cumbrians took part. Participants delivered over 10,500 hours of social action across Cumbria, and will be expanding the scheme in 2012.

Pete Alger of Connexions Cumbria said: “We loved it! It was challenging but great to do and the feedback from young people and parents has been excellent.”



more support for elderly in rural cumbria

Rory has asked government Ministers what steps are being taken to enable older people living in rural areas to remain in their own homes as they grow older, in a show of support for Age UK’s ‘Over the Hill’ campaign, which aims to highlight the challenges faced by older people in rural areas and focuses on some ground-breaking approaches that have been introduced across England to deal with them.

Rory is concerned that older people living in rural Cumbria are included in local decision-making and initiatives that affect them, and will this Winter be supporting practical initiatives that highlight the very severe needs of the elderly living in rural locations: he will help to launch Cumbria Community Foundation’s ‘Winter Warmth Appeal’ next week, and the Abbeyfield Society’s ‘Companionship at Christmas’ initiative running in Wigton over Christmas this year, where free overnight stays and delicious lunches will be offered to older people who would otherwise be alone over the festive season.

Rory said: “In Parliament, I am constantly arguing the case for Cumbria and fighting for recognition of the unique challenges we face here – challenges that are magnified when you are elderly and living in an extremely rural location. The Over the Hill campaign is very important in highlighting issues of sparsity and lack of access to services, as well as the serious problems of loneliness and isolation. Retaining their independence and ability to remain living at home are what the majority of older people hope for, but we need to do more to support this wish. I am delighted to be supporting this campaign.”

In response to Rory’s lobbying, Minister Andrew Stunnell – who visited Crosby Ravensworth earlier this year to look at its affordable housing scheme – said: “Government is committed to supporting older people to live independently at home. We have protected funding for the Disabled Facilities Grant, which delivers adaptations that enable disabled people to live comfortably and independently in their homes – and the budget will increase from £169 million in 2010-11 to £185 million in 2014-15. We are also investing £1.5 million in the FirstStop information and advice service, which aims to help older people make informed decisions about their housing, care and support options, and to help them maintain independent living in later life. The Goverment has also provided £51 million funding for HandyPersons schemes over the spending review period to deliver small home repairs and adaptations.”


appleby’s magic garden nursery

Rory helped to celebrate the success of the Appleby Primary School Wrap-Around Care’s recent OFSTED inspection of it Magic Garden Nursery and Breakfast, After School and Holiday Clubs at the nursery on Saturday, where staff, parents, children and committee members thanked him for his sterling support during its initial stages and first year of operation. Rory met parents and children and chatted with supporters in the nursery’s garden, and was especially impressed with the ‘flip-flop’ organ of plastic drainage pipes.

He said: “It is wonderful to see the Magic Garden going from strength to strength, especially when there was so much uncertainty around its future last Summer. Gina and her staff and committee have turned this provision around to be a thriving nursery that provides local children with a great space to learn and grow. It absolutely deserves its ‘Oustanding’ marks from OFSTED and I am glad to have played a small part in its history.”

The nursery’s success has been credited to the dedication of its manager Gina Harper, her hard-working staff and the support of the new committee and parents, all of whom were thanked for helping to facilitate an extremely successful OFSTED report after just one year of operation.

Gina Harper said: “I am exceptionally proud of our  nursery. Our staff and committee have worked proactively throughout the year to achieve the excellent outcomes. Without Rory’s support we may not have been here to experience this day. Through his intervention these settings were able to get re-registration and continuing care provision despite the resignation of the previous committee in July 2010.”

Helen Gould Reddy, Chair of the Committee, said, “ An unscheduled inspection carried out by OFSTED Inspectors at the Magic Garden Nursery in the grounds of Appleby Primary School found the quality of the provision to be ‘Outstanding’, the  highest accolade given by OFSTED, in eleven of  fifteen categories and ‘Good’ in all other criteria. The inspectors were pleased with the outcomes for the children who ‘truly benefit from the excellent care, activities and play opportunities made available to them.’ They were particularly delighted by the ‘excellent outdoor garden where children access innovative materials and equipment like, for example, the musical drainpipes.'”

Emma Wilson, a parent and Appleby resident, remarked: “This is my second child to come to the nursery and I am extremely happy with the education and level of care that Gina, Faye and the other staff give to my children, and how much fun they have.”

OFSTED write in their report: “Children are happy and confident individuals who know the routine and have an excellent relationship with the staff. During their time spent in the pre-school they are exceptionally well supported by highly skilled, early years practitioners. The quality of the provision and the outcomes for childcare in the Early Years Foundation Stage are Outstanding.”

Picture attached. Caption: Rory Stewart MP with Gina Harper (left) and Helen Gould Reddy (right) celebrate Magic Garden’s outstanding OFSTED report.



Rory Speaks in Debate on Flood Defences


Rory Stewart: This is not a party political question. The Scots argue strongly that one of the best ways to deal with flooding is not to allow construction on flood plains. Will the shadow Minister acknowledge that one of the real errors of the past 15 years has been our construction policy, rather than the amount of money put into flood defences?

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question, but I did not hear him thank us for the flood defences that were put in place in Cumbria following the terrible floods there.

Rory Stewart: Thank you.

Mary Creagh: It was our pleasure. I know that Carlisle also suffered terribly. We cannot stop all development. The Thames Gateway development is happening on areas that are also potentially flood plains, but we must ensure that there is a joined-up strategy across Government and that the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Treasury and the Home Office look at the real costs of flooding. At the moment insurers pay out, but it is not in their interests to stop flood events, because ultimately it is the reinsurers who pay the costs. We need to drill down and get a true account from across Government of the costs of flood events

christmas card competition

Rory has written to all primary schools in his constituency asking pupils to design a Christmas card which reflects the spirit of Christmas in Cumbria. Following on from the success of last year’s competition – which was won by Ellie Morton of Plumpton Primary School – Rory will once again choose a winning design from submissions by school-children from across the constituency, which will be sent out around the constituency and nationally. Schools are invited to choose their own two best designs that they would like to be entered into the competition. The youngster who produces this year’s winning design will win a £50 book token from new Penrith bookshop, Wordsworth’s. The competition closes on Friday 18th November 2011. The winner will be
announced on Monday 28th November.

Rory said: “I am delighted that this time of year has come around again. I really enjoyed looking at last year’s entries and look forward to seeing what this year’s artists have to offer. The standards were so high that it was of course difficult to pick a winner, but Ellie’s design from last year received lots of admiring comments from those who received the card. It is also a real pleasure to be supporting Penrith’s new bookshop, Wordsworth’s, now that Penrith has very sadly lost the Bluebell Bookshop.”


cumbrian visitors to westminster

Rory took time out from his busy parliamentary schedule to welcome some special visitors to Westminster last week. He was joined on Tuesday by local schoolgirls Ellie and Amy Morton, both of whom attend Plumpton School and who had been invited to the House of Commons by Rory after Ellie successfully won the MP’s inaugural Christmas card competition last year. The two girls, accompanied by their mother Yvonne and friend Carole, went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament and then had lunch with Rory on the River Terrace.

Ellie said: “The tour was really good, and the chocolate pudding. I can’t believe how big the London Eye looks from here, though Big Ben is my favourite thing about Parliament”.

On Wednesday, Rory met with Penrith resident Roland Bateman, accompanied by local journalist Carl Fallowfield, who was escorted by Rory to No 10 Downing Street. It was Roland’s first visit to the capital and he had been wanting to visit parliament and 10 Downing Street for many years. Roland and Carl had a tour of the Houses of Parliament followed by lunch with Rory, where they talked about London and Penrith and also discussed some of Roland’s questions about the benefits system and the welfare state. Roland charmed many of the people in the House of Commons and even suggested that there be a visitor’s book in Central Lobby – an idea that seemed immediately popular to the Central Lobby receptionists who are going to look at the feasibility of such a project.


new european funding

Rory has welcomed the publishing of detailed proposals about the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2014-20, saying that “Cumbrians must be encouraged to keep abreast of the fund in order to maximise benefits to Cumbria”. Rory has pledged to do all he can to encourage Cumbrians to be more aware of the fund, by publicising the website and recommending that the NFU and other organisations explain the fund’s advantages to
farmers and rural communities.

Rory has, in particular, welcomed news that the 376 billion Euros fund will be simpler to administrate, with a strong focus on community-led local development and a greater role for civil society groupd and the voluntary sector. The funds include a designated amount for ‘special transition areas’ including Cumbria, which has been ear-marked as an area requiring extra support.

Rory said: “It is vitally important that, following the abolition of our Regional Development Agencies, Cumbrian communities take responsibility for making sure that they are well informed about
this important fund. Given that Cumbria has been chosen as a transition area requiring greater support, we should all be anticipating the projects for which these funds can be most
beneficial, for example in infrastructure innovations, such as broadband improvement; making SMEs more competitive and ensuring that they are a driver for growth in the Cumbrian economy; and investing in sustainable local transport initiatives. The great thing about this fund is its flexibility, which also makes it a great complement to the localist agenda that government is working so hard to enshrine in law. It also helps to reaffirm the importance of what Cumbria does best: local solutions for local problems.”

The ESF and ERDF will be available across Europe, targeted in areas where GDP is less than 75% of the European average. Further information on the fund can be found at