Monday 4 September 2023
Business and Trade
Irchester Village's Post Box Installation
The humble petition of the residents of Irchester, Northamptonshire, and the surrounding areas,
Sheweth, that the petitioners believe that, to improve the accessibility of postal services, the village of Irchester would be better served if a post box was installed in the centre of the village,
Wherefore your petitioners pray that your honourable House urges the Government to work with Royal Mail to consider whether the needs of the village of Irchester could be better met with a new centrally located post box.
And your petitioners, as duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mr Peter Bone, Official Report, 4 July 2023; Vol. 735, c. 6P.]
Observations from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kevin Hollinrake):
It is important that people and businesses can access postal services and can send and receive letters and parcels regularly. That is why the Government are committed to ensuring the provision of a sustainable, efficient, accessible, and affordable universal postal service in the United Kingdom.
Royal Mail is a fully independent private business, and the Government do not have a role in the day-to-day operational matters of the company, including the location of specific post boxes.
However, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), as the independent regulator for the postal sector, requires Royal Mail to ensure there is a post box within half a mile of the premises of at least 98% of users of postal services. Royal Mail is also required to report annually to Ofcom the number of customer complaints received about the provision and/or location of post boxes.
Ofcom carried out a review of the future regulatory framework for post and published its conclusions in November 2022. As part of this review, Ofcom considered its approach to regulating the universal postal service and sought views on the accessibility of the service, particularly for vulnerable people and those who may be more reliant on postal services. Ofcom reported that its requirements for geographic distribution of universal service access points, such as post boxes, help to ensure that users can post letters and parcels near where they live and work. For rural users, it reported that Royal Mail should also promote alternative options, including handing stamped letterbox opening sized items to their postal worker on delivery of their mail or Royal Mail's new Parcel Collect service. More information about the regulatory regime can be found on Ofcom's website www.ofcom.org.uk
The residents of Irchester, Northamptonshire, and the surrounding areas, may wish to submit a request to Royal Mail to consider the petitioners' views that a post box in Irchester village would improve their accessibility to postal services. Royal Mail’s customer services team can be contacted by filling out a form online at: personal.help.royalmail.com/app/contact, by phone (03457 740 740) or by writing to Freepost, Royal Mail Customer Services.
Coventry University Nursery
The petition of residents of the constituency of Coventry South
Declares that the Coventry University Nursery provides an irreplaceable service for the community; further declares that its location in the centre of Coventry is particularly important to maintaining adequate early years provision in this city; notes that the proposed closure of the Coventry University Nursery will result in the loss of much needed childcare provision; further notes that Coventry University has the facilities, financial and human resources to maintain the current level of provision; and further declares that the proposed closure of the nursery will have a detrimental impact on equal and widening participation in higher education and the ability of the petitioners to access work and education.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge Coventry University to consider withdrawing the proposed closure of its nursery and to instead expand its early years provision to fulfil its social responsibility to Coventry and its commitment to the wellbeing of its employees and students.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Zarah Sultana, Official Report, 12 June 2023; Vol. 734, c. 129.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Claire Coutinho):
I am sorry to hear about the potential closure of the nursery at Coventry University. Officials in the Department for Education have spoken with Coventry City Council about this issue and the local authority has informed us that they are working closely with both the university and childcare setting to try and find a solution.
Under section 6 of the Childcare Act 2006, local authorities are responsible for ensuring that the provision of childcare is sufficient to meet the requirements of parents in their area. Part B of the early education and childcare statutory guidance for local authorities highlights that local authorities should report annually to elected council members on how they are meeting their duty to secure sufficient childcare, and to make this report available and accessible to parents.
This Government are determined to support as many families as possible with access to high-quality, affordable childcare, which is why the spring Budget announced significant new investments to expand the free early education entitlements from 2024-25, together with uplifts in 2023-24 and 2024-25 for the existing entitlement offers. This represents the single biggest investment in childcare in England ever.
We will also substantially uplift the hourly rate paid to local authorities to increase hourly rates paid to childcare providers, to deliver existing free entitlements offers. We will provide £204 million of additional funding in 2023-24, increasing to £288 million by 2024-25.
The petition raises concerns about equality and widening participation in higher education. Access to, and participation in, higher education is important and the government wants to ensure that equality of opportunity is in place at all establishments.
The childcare grant (CCG) for parents in higher education undertaking a full-time undergraduate course is paid to help with weekly childcare costs. The amount of CCG payable is based on 85% of actual childcare costs up to a maximum of £183.75 a week for one child or £315.03 a week for students with two or more children in the current academic year, 2022/23. The maximum CCG has been increased to £188.90 a week for one child and £323.95 for two or more children in 2023/24.
Students are also eligible for universal 15 hours childcare, which is available to all 3 and 4-year-olds, regardless of family circumstances.
Where students can work alongside their studies and meet the minimum income threshold for 30 hours, which is 16 hours a week at the national living wage, they are able to apply for, and receive, 30 hours and tax-free childcare which can help parents with an additional 20% contribution towards childcare costs. Tax-free childcare can be worth up to £2,000 per year for children from 0-11, or up to £4,000 per year for disabled children aged up to 17 and has the same minimum income threshold as 30 hours free childcare.
Health and Social Care
Hull York Dental School
The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,
Declares that the recent survey by the British Dental Association shows the dental workforce has been reduced to a level not seen since 2012-13; further that unmet need for dentistry is at record high at 1 in 4 of adult population in 2022; further that the proportion of dentists now reporting their intention to reduce—or further reduce—the amount of NHS work they undertake in 2023 stands at 74%; further that the National Audit Office ranked the East Riding of Yorkshire as having the third lowest count of dentists per head of population in the country at 3.6 per 10,000 in its latest report; further that Hull has historically high levels of tooth decay in children; further that there is a direct correlation between increased rates of tooth extractions and the risk of mouth cancer; further that there is an overwhelming need for more dentists in the region; further that this need can be met by training more dentists locally; further notes Hull York Medical School opened in 2003 and now sees over 150 newly qualified doctors a year enter the profession.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government take into account the concerns of the petitioners and take immediate action to facilitate the creation of a Hull York Dental School.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Emma Hardy, Official Report, 18 July 2023; Vol. 736, c. 879.]
Observations from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Neil O'Brien):
We recognise there are parts of England with long-standing concerns in respect of NHS dental access. The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan (LTWP) sets out the steps the NHS and its partners need to take to deliver an NHS workforce that meets the changing needs of the population over the next 15 years. It will put the workforce on a sustainable footing for the long term.
The LTWP, published 30 June 2023, included projections for the number of doctors, nurses and other professionals that would be needed, including dentists and the wider dental workforce. As set out in the LTWP, we are going to increase dentistry training places by 40% so that there are over 1,100 places by 2031-32. To support this ambition, we will expand places by 24% by 2028-29, taking the overall number of dentistry training places that year to 1,000. Additionally, we are going to increase training places for dental therapists and hygiene professionals to more than 500 by 2031-32.
We will work with partners to assess the capacity within existing current dental schools to accommodate the proposed expansion in training places. If required to deliver our ambitions on workforce expansion, we will explore the creation of new dental schools.
However, establishing new dental schools takes several years and therefore would not impact service provision for many years. As set out in the LTWP, work is already underway through the establishment of centres for dental development to bring together dental education and training with service delivery models, particularly in areas where there is a shortage of workforce relative to population need.
In addition to the proposals on dental workforce set out in the LTWP, we are currently working on a plan for dentistry, to improve access to dental care across England. There are several fronts where we need to take further action to support and recover activity in NHS dentistry, to improve access to care for all ages.
Car parking charges
The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,
Declares that the removal of the two hours free car parking in Darlington Town Centre will have a detrimental effect on the local community and on the local economy; further declares that it must be reinstated by Darlington Borough Council.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to encourage Darlington Borough Council to U-turn immediately on their decision to re-introduce these car parking charges in Darlington town centre.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Peter Gibson, Official Report, 20 July 2023; Vol. 736, c. 1123.]
Observations from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Richard Holden):
I am disappointed that Darlington Borough Council has taken this stance. Unfortunately, the setting of charges for parking in local authority car parks or in on-street parking bays is entirely a matter for the local authority in accordance with powers available to it in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. It is for each individual authority to decide what to charge for parking. We would encourage residents to engage directly with Darlington Borough Council on this proposal. Moreover, information on residents' rights to challenge local authority parking policies can be found at the following link: www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-challenge-parking-policies
While local authorities are free to make their own decisions about streets under their care, provided they take account of the relevant legislation, they are, of course, accountable to the electorate for their decisions and their performance.