WELCOME TO MY WEEKLY UPDATE NO.239.
Last weekend I landed back from a very sunny Marrakech with the IMF and despite the colder weather here found lots of positivity from our international friends about the UK and its prospects as you can see in this video. It is worth a look because it demonstrates that long-standing truth that other countries often think a whole lot more highly about the UK than we think about ourselves. Locally a few things are going on, including a nightmare problem with the lunch service at Beacon Hill School.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
IMF We need to be prepared for shocks to the global economy was my main takeaway from the IMF autumn meetings in Morocco. Of course the horrors in Israel are top of our mind but we must not forget the war of attrition being conducted by Russia in Ukraine, food shortages in Africa and extreme weather events being caused by climate change. That was the challenging backdrop to the IMF summit which I wrote about in this week’s Herald and spoke about in this video. Do these summits matter? On balance yes. If there is a shock to the system (such as when Silicon Valley Bank had to be saved in the UK earlier this year) it is incredibly helpful for me to be able to contact US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen quickly. These meetings are when you forge the links to make such contact possible. They are also the moment when we focus our attention on making multilateral institutions like the IMF work - which really matters because they are the institution of last resort when it comes to global financial stability - as I spent time discussing with Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. I also had very productive meetings with several of our key allies, including the US, India, Ukraine, Germany, and Canada. The IMF say our longer-term growth rate will be higher than France, Germany, and Italy, and as shown in this video I remain optimistic about our medium and longer term prospects. Our technology sector is double the size of Germany’s and three times that of France - as Bill Clinton once said we should look at the trendlines not the headlines.
INFLATION UPDATE Almost all of my time at the moment in the Treasury is focussed on the Autumn Statement and the short term context is inflation coming down sharply as is expected to continue following this month’s numbers. They were unchanged from a month ago but expected to continue falling. Real earnings continue to outstrip inflation which is very important for families suffering in a cost of living crisis - and the biggest thing I can do now to help them is deliver the PM’s pledge to halve inflation. From other big economies, we know inflation rarely falls in a straight line but if we stick to the plan most experts are confident we will succeed.
ISRAEL Rishi Sunak gave a powerful statement to the House of Commons about the appalling terrorist attacks by Hamas on Israel. The heartbreaking stories now coming out are focusing all our minds, including the horrific destruction of a hospital in Gaza. I am very concerned - and ashamed - and the increase in antisemitic incidents in the UK. We must do everything to support the British Jewish community so the PM rightly announced an additional £3 million to protect Jewish community buildings. Of course Israel must operate within international law but they also have a right to respond to these attacks to make sure they do not happen again - and we are supporting them with RAF patrols and a Royal Navy task group. We are also a longstanding and significant donor of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people – themselves the biggest victims of Hamas terrorism as they are deliberately used as human shields. The PM announced on Monday we are increasing our aid to Palestine by a third, with an additional £10 million of support - and we should stand behind British Muslims who are rightly desperately concerned about the humanitarian plight unfolding.
COST OF LIVING PAYMENTS From 31st October, millions of households across the UK will receive their second of three new cost of living payments. That means that £300 will be paid between 31st October and 19th November, which I know is helpful for the most vulnerable in society. More information on the government website here.
BUS SERVICES Really important funding was announced at the Conservative Conference to protect essential bus services and maintain the £2 fare cap. That amounts to almost £4 million for Surrey County Council which I know will make a huge difference to many without cars.
WHAT’S GOING ON LOCALLY
CANCER CAMPAIGN - ALREADY FEELING CHRISTMASSY? Following the success of the Friends of the Cancer & Surgical Innovation Campaign's musical event 'A Positive Note', the creative group of volunteers are busy finalising the details for their next musical extravaganza. 'A Positive Festive Note', will feature singers from: Weydon School, Farnham & Bourne Choral Society, Harmonix and The Royal Surrey Choir. So, please save the date: Friday 8th December at The Medici Theatre, Weydon School, Farnham and tell your friends and family about this jolly, festive evening of music to continue raising money for a new Cancer Centre at the Royal Surrey. More details to follow soon…
BEACON HILL SCHOOL As I wrote in my e-newsletter last week, there has been a problem with the lunch service at Beacon Hill school. I wrote to Surrey County Council who run the Twelve15 operation, asking them for an update. I received an immediate response explaining that the regrettable situation had been caused by sickness absence that had reached critical levels. I have been assured that the team is doing all it can to maintain a service at the school. Head of Twelve15, Sarah Atkinson apologised for the inconvenience and wrote "We plan to resume hot lunches with effect from Monday 30thOctober when we expect to have sufficient resources available to be able to safely prepare, cook and serve a hot meal".
FARNBOROUGH AIRPORT CONSULTATION This week I submitted my comments on the consultation to increase operating hours at the airport. I am concerned about the planned expansion which I don’t think strikes a fair balance between the need for legitimate business expansion and the rights of local residents. If you would like to read what I wrote, you can do so here.
MORE FUEL ISSUES IN BRAMLEY FUEL There are worrying reports of yet more fuel in Bramley stream following the heavy rainfall again this week. I finally received an update from EPS (the petrol stations remediation consultant) and there is more detail here. I’ve got a meeting planned for next month with the Environmental Agency in Bramley…more details to follow on this long running saga!
FREE CHRISTMAS LUNCH PROJECT Last year 567 meals were delivered on Christmas by the excellent team organised by Matt Gaskin. They are now looking for volunteers and drivers to deliver as this year they think the number could reach 700. For more information, do look at their website.
TONGHAM ROAD Work has begun on Tongham Road which will improve road safety and make better use of green space locally. There are further details available here.
CRANLEIGH PARKRUN The parkrun is now back at Knowle Park for keen Saturday runners. There are lots of details about the course and how to take part (as a runner, spectator, or volunteer) here.
HALF TERM FUN Godalming Library is hosting a Halloween Fun event on Friday 27th October joint with the Dog Trust with tickets free and available to book here. It is also the perfect time of year to see the autumn colours at Winkworth, which you can read about here.
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AND FINALLY… As Paris seems to be dealing with a bedbug infestation, British and Irish dog lovers will be proud to see who is helping our neighbours combat it!