Penny has lived in Portsmouth since she was 2-years-old. Her father, who was born in Hilsea barracks, was in the Paras before becoming a teacher at Oak Park school and later a youth worker for Hampshire Council. Her mother, who died of breast cancer in 1988, was a special needs teacher at several Purbrook schools, and her stepmother is also a local primary school teacher. Penny has two brothers, Edward and James, who is her twin. She was educated at Oaklands RC Comprehensive School and studied drama at the Victoryland Theatre School.
She worked at the old Johnson and Johnson factory and as a magician's assistant for Paulsgrove resident and former President of the Magic Circle, Will Ayling, before becoming the first person in her family to go to University.
She gained an interest in politics having worked in the hospitals and orphanages of post-revolutionary Romania, for the year before and during her time at University.
She has a successful career in business and communications working in the private, public and charitable sectors. She supported British truckers during the French blockades whilst working for the Freight Transport Association. She is proud to have been a director of one of the top performing local authorities in the UK - delivering excellent services for one of the lowest council taxes in the UK.
She went on to be a director of a national lottery distributor and created the Veterans Reunited programme, enabling service men and women to visit WW2 battlefields and be involved in commemorative events. In 2006 she became Director of Diabetes UK - the largest patient organisation in Europe. She expanded the services of the charity and substantially increased its income, and set up services in developing countries particularly prone to diabetes.
Penny is training to be a Royal Navy reservist at King Alfred on Whale Island, is a fellow of the Royal Society for Arts, and a member of the British Astronomical Association. She lives at Port Solent with two very demanding cats and is a keen painter.
Penny fundraises for several local and national charities, including the League of Friends visiting team at the Queen Alexandra Hospital.
Penny in Portsmouth
Penny is determined to find practical solutions to the tough issues facing our city that really concern local residents.
The north of Portsmouth has been starved of community investment and Penny is determined that it gets its fair share. She exposed the diversion of section 106 funds away from the north and has campaigned to get better community facilities and activities in place. Penny doesn't believe that all the issues facing Portsmouth can be solved by the State, and has set up various volunteering and social action projects in Portsmouth to improve health, education, the environment and support local charities. These include refurbishing run down community facilities without taxpayers' funds.
Penny is working on a wide range of campaigns to give powers back to the local community and strengthen their hand in arguing for services to be retained. Top of the list here are improvements to bus services, and services to older people, which have steadily been eroded. Recent campaigns include improving the tax credit system and justice for the victims of tax credit and equitable life maladministration. She is also working to support the local hospital, which is locked into a crippling PFI contract, and to support local businesses, most notably to have their business rates reduced. She is also looking at how local schools can access the capital they need to develop and ensuing there is provision for the current large number of children who are being home taught or who regularly play truant. She has also campaigned to get antisocial behaviour clauses placed into private and public sector housing contracts.
Her work plan is led by her constituents who she regularly surveys and meets at her "Your Thoughts for Penny" conference. Her manifesto in 2005 and 2010 was written by local residents.
Penny in Parliament
Penny was elected in May 2010, having also stood as a candidate in 2005. In July 2014, she was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Before that, Penny was a member of the European Scrutiny Committee, which monitors legislation and directives coming from the EU and decides which should be heard on the floor of the House.
She was also the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ageing and Older People and has helped set up the Centre for Social Justice Commission into older people's care and quality of life. She was the founder and Chairman of the APPG on the Life Sciences, which looks at ways we can support health and medical research and increase the speed at which new treatments become available on the NHS. She was a member of various APPGs related to defence, healthcare, shipbuilding, India and the USA.
Penny devoted her maiden speech to the Royal Navy and is working to secure the future of Portsmouth Naval Base and the fleet.
Penny firmly believes that it is her job to find practical solutions to help make life better for Portsmouth residents, as well as contribute to a national policy debate.
Penny was re-elected in May 2015 and appointed Minister of State for the Armed Forced.
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