Opinion: Melton is special and we must keep it so

Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton, writes..
Rutland and Melton MP, Alicia KearnsRutland and Melton MP, Alicia Kearns
Rutland and Melton MP, Alicia Kearns

I want to start by saying thank you to the people of Melton and the Vale for the incredible generosity you have shown towards the people of Ukraine. The humanitarian crisis caused by Vladimir Putin, and his war crimes, has seen our communities be steadfast in our support of Ukraine.

From support of Ukraine through to donations and the incredible offer of taking Ukrainians into homes, proof of the kindness and generosity that we all know our town and villages are famous for, has been astonishing.

Almost 50 homes in communities have offered to open their arms to Ukrainians and have asked me directly to match them with those who need a safe home. I’m proud to have already been able to match 20 Ukrainian families with homes here, and if you are looking to house a family, please get in touch – there are a great many families who need a safe place to live to escape Putin.

I was privileged to be able to welcome four Ukrainian MPs to Parliament recently – and they were truly incredible women. It’s treason for MPs to leave Ukraine at the moment, but these MPs had special permission to leave the country to help keep the UK’s mind focussed on the Russian threat to freedom.

In the meetings I arranged, it was clear they see the UK as at the vanguard of international support of Ukraine – including the prime minister and home secretary. I have been vocal in criticising the government when I haven’t felt that we are going far enough, but the Homes for Ukraine scheme is a good example of the government acting quickly to get a good response. Not perfect, but good. I will be vocal in pushing for further support of Ukrainian refugees going forward – such as the speedy expansion to allowing charities and community groups to sponsor them.

Our town is a special place – as I have said in this column so often! And it’s the small community charities and organisation that, for my money, make it one of the best places to live in the world. Organisations like Pepper’s, which provides a safe space for adults struggling with mental health issues to talk.

It does astonishing work – and the charity is a lifeline for so many. So I was delighted to see it receive £10,000 in National Lottery funding to continue its amazing work, and expand to bigger premises to help even more people.

More good news, sport is so important to our communities – not just for health, but for leisure and so much more besides. So I was delighted it’s been announced that the Melton Education Trust has received £519,776 in government funding to build a new floodlit 3G pitch at John Ferneley College.

This funding includes not only the pitch, but community access for a multi-use games area, sports hall and more grass pitches. Four clubs across Melton will be the primary beneficiaries – with a total of 41 teams ready to take advantage of this new top-class pitch.

The trust will also use the funding to promote the game for women and girls – and quite right too!

I was very disappointed to hear that Centrebus is planning to pull the Number 19 bus from Melton to Nottingham. In rural areas like ours, buses are such an important piece of the transport puzzle and this is the only direct public transport link we have to Nottingham. For those who depend on the bus to commute, visit friends and family or to fulfil medical appointments, losing this route would have a severe impact on our town.

I simply don’t think this is acceptable for those who depend on this link. I have raised it in the House of Commons, and have written to the transport secretary to ask for their support of rural buses going forward, and will be working with the council to keep this service open, to ensure that our town has the services it needs, if it is possible. But it is a reality that not enough people use the service, and the government has been subsidising it.

In November 2020, I helped to secure £50,000 in funding to explore the business case for a passenger link to Nottingham through Syston through the Restoring Your Railway fund. I will be pressing the council and the rail minister for this service to become a reality as quickly as possible.

All that remains is for me to wish you, and your families, a wonderful week in the lead up to Easter, and let’s hope for more of the lovely spring weather we have been enjoying recently!