WELCOME TO MY WEEKLY UPDATE NO. 238.
After the excitements of Manchester I had a productive visit to Ash on Friday including taking a look at both Ash and Ash Vale stations. Meanwhile it’s head down in Downing Street as the PM and I prepare for the Autumn Statement – and reflect on the shocking terrorist murders in Israel.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
ISRAEL It is difficult for any words to do justice to the horrific scenes we have been seeing in Israel. This is truly their 9/11 moment and we stand foursquare behind our Israeli friends and allies. One of the most thoughtful pieces I read was by William Hague in the Times. But If you want a sense of how difficult it is to understand the long term impact of such seismic events this Radio 4 podcast on the 1973 Yom Kippur war is also worth a listen. It points out that what was only a 3 week war led to oil price rises (and Thatcherism/Reaganism), Al Qaeda (founded by one of Egyptian President Sadat’s assassins) and the rise of Likud in Israel. I know Rishi Sunak has been working closely with our allies in France, Germany, US, and Italy in offering our support to Israel. I have had heartbreaking messages from friends living in Israel and despair at the BBC’s refusal to call out Hamas for the terrorists they are.
HMT UPDATE Back to my day job where after the big HS2 decision last week, I have had a really productive week meeting big global infrastructure investors for an event at No 11. Whatever your views on HS2, we all agree that big infrastructure projects take too long and cost too much (10x more in the UK than France for high speed rail). We spoke about how the government can support the sector on this and they gave me lots to think about ahead of the Autumn Statement. Yesterday I headed to the Euston Partnership which is where HS2 will arrive in London. We want to take a similar approach to the regeneration project in King’s Cross or Battersea Power Station. The ONS today also said the economy grew in August which demonstrates its resilience but we do still need to reduce inflation and achieve higher growth which is what I am focussed on.
IMF I have now arrived in Marrakech for the IMF annual meetings. I will be visiting a soup kitchen run by UK volunteers to help the earthquake victims as well as meeting fellow finance ministers. This article by Jeremy Warner in the Telegraph asks pertinently if the IMF is being too complacent about future shocks - something I will be probing whilst here. The IMF downgraded our growth forecasts but, frustratingly, did not account for the ONS revising them up by a significant 1.8% of GDP. They still say our longer term (post 2025) growth will be higher than France, Germany, or Italy. But to get there we need to reduce inflation and do all we can to continue to support our fastest-growing sectors such as technology, now double the size of anyone else in Europe. Cambridge alone has 20 ‘unicorns’ which they want to double to 40.
WHAT’S GOING ON LOCALLY
GREEN SPACES The first of my series of autumn lunchtime litterpicks will be held on Friday 20th October in Cranleigh at 13.30. Please email email@example.com if you are able to join and we will share the exact meeting point closer to the date.
QUIZ FOR MY CANCER CAMPAIGN A reminder that a quiz will be held on Friday 20th October in Albury Village Hall at 7pm to raise funds for the Cancer Campaign at the Royal Surrey. Tickets are £20 and includes a ploughman’s supper. There are loads of amazing prizes on offer too. For tickets call 07932 411108 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ASH MEDICAL CENTRE I visited the Ash Meadows development which is a very successful development but – as I said in this video – there is a proposed NHS medical centre which was meant to be built but nothing has happened. I will therefore contact the head of the local NHS, the Frimley ICS, to try to understand what is blocking it and see if there is anything I can do to help. If the NHS don’t want the land then we should find a different group to use it.
ASH STATION I also visited the new road bridge being built to replace the level crossing. There was always supposed to be a footbridge alongside it so pedestrians don’t have to walk over the tracks but so far it has not secured funding. I will speak to Transport Secretary Mark Harper about it.
ASH VALE I will also speak about a bid for step-free access at Ash Vale station where there is a lot of climbing necessary to reach the platform. Surrey County Council have already offered £0.5million towards doing it thanks to Cllr Matt Furniss and leader Tim Oliver, but we need the Department for Transport to fund the rest.
BEACON HILL SCHOOL LUNCH PROBLEM
I’ve just been made aware of a problem with school lunches at Beacon Hill village school. The Surrey County Council (SCC) run catering firm, Twelve15, seems to have a shortage of staff, so they haven’t been able to provide lunches for pupils. Parents and staff have been great and tried to muddle through which is not ideal – but hugely appreciated. I have written to SCC Leader Tim Oliver to ask if he can investigate the matter so that solution can be found urgently. More on this to follow…..
FARNBOROUGH AIRPORT On Friday I had a detailed meeting with Farnborough airport CEO Simon Geere about his proposed expansion from 50,000 to 70,000 flights a year. I understand the significance of the airport to the UK's ability to attract international investment but I am very concerned about the impact on residents living under the flightpath. Do they really need to double flights over the weekend - and over a longer time window? There seemed to be no compromise on the table. I would also like to know what the total proposed increase in noise is for residents - and will be submitting my own views to the consultation. Good to be with Greg Stafford, the brilliant new Conservative parliamentary candidate for Farnham and Bordon, who was equally engaged in the issue.
ACORN HOUSE I was also proud to open Acorn House in Hindhead, which is a wonderful new facility for adults with disabilities in Hindhead. It is being run by Voyage Care which I could tell was a really values-driven organisation. The new house will transform the lives of the ten residents who live there.
THE EDGE Last week I had an encouraging meeting with Tim Oliver, Tim Horwood, and the leader of Waverley Borough Council and things are sounding much more positive. Hopefully an announcement will be made in the near future with a solution for the centre to reopen…
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AND FINALLY… Very exciting news for football fans as the UK and Ireland will be hosting the Euros in 2028. I remember the excitement of when we hosted in 1996 so it will be great for young football fans to experience that too. And it makes up for my failure to secure the 2018 World Cup for England back in 2010 when I was Culture Secretary and visited FIFA with Prince William and David Beckham (please excuse the name dropping but it is the bottom of the newsletter).