WELCOME TO MY SOUTH WEST SURREY UPDATE NO.235.
…from the USA where I arrived in San Francisco yesterday to bang the drum for our world-leading tech and creative industries. I am also pleased to announce a local Plastic-Free Pledge which you can read more about below, on my website, and in this week’s Herald.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
INFLATION We had some rare good news on inflation when the ONS confirmed that inflation fell in August to 6.7%. That means it is now 40% lower than it was at its peak last autumn, demonstrating that our plan to reduce inflation is working. Inflation never falls in a straight line but we need to stick to that plan to continue to ease pressure on families and businesses - and the first sign that might be around the corner was a welcome decision by the Bank of England not to raise interest rates. But even 6.7% is too high which means we can’t go on a borrowing binge - as advocated by some - which would only keep interest rates higher for longer.
NET ZERO Big news in Westminster this week with the Prime Minister’s announcement to delay some of our climate change transition targets. It’s important to be clear what this is not: the UK will continue to meet its international net zero obligations and domestic interim targets to make sure we reach net zero by 2050. These changes only bring us into line with other environmentally-conscious countries like Germany and Canada (and places like California where I am now). But if we are to carry the public we need to be honest that there are costs involved and be proportionate and pragmatic in our approach which is why the Prime Minister’s speech earlier this week was absolutely right. These changes mean we will have more time to prepare and there will be more support to do so: the cash grants for the boiler upgrade scheme will go up 50% to £7,500. We have reduced our emissions by more than any other major economy and I am personally extremely proud that we have - but you don’t make changes of this magnitude without being open about the costs and trade-offs involved which is why this announcement strikes the right balance.
USA Why I am here? To trumpet what is one of the UK’s greatest unsung success stories. Despite being only 1% of the world’s population we have become only the third country in the world to have a technology sector worth a trillion dollars – twice the size of Germany’s, three times the size of France and with more ‘unicorns’ (tech companies worth more than $1 bn) than both put together. If you want to understand why we have grown faster than Germany or other countries with higher productivity (something I am onto by the way) it is this: our strength in innovation industries like AI (third in the world); life sciences (biggest in Europe with more lives saved by UK-developed medicines and vaccines than those from anywhere else) and film/TV where our studio space has gone up by two thirds to five million square feet in just three years. In short, we have become Europe’s Silicon Valley - not least because of our strengths in financial services and higher education where we have four of the world’s top 20 universities. But to keep growing we need to make sure that investors know exactly what we are doing, so I am spending this week in the US meeting teams like Andreessen Horowitz, who earlier this year announced their first international office will be in London. I will also be going to Hollywood later today as the UK is now Europe’s biggest film and TV production centre– with Netflix alone investing $6bn to base production with us (and that’s before the Harry and Meghan deal).
WHAT’S GOING ON IN SOUTH WEST SURREY
ROYAL SURREY COMMUNITY DAY This Saturday 23rd September the Royal Surrey Hospital is opening its doors to the community between 10am and 3pm. This free event is a great opportunity to see their world-class healthcare facilities, speak to the amazing staff, and find out more about the future of the hospital. It is open to everyone– whether families with kids who want to take part in facepainting and activities, young people or anyone interested in NHS careers, representatives from other community groups, and indeed anyone who uses their services. There is no need to book in advance but if you would like to know more the website is here.
GREEN SPACES One of the key priorities of my Green Spaces campaign is reducing single-use plastics. We have seen a huge decrease in these—with single-use carrier bags being reduced in main supermarkets by over 98% and bans on items such as plastic straws. But I think Surrey can go even further—and I know this is something so many people locally care deeply about. So, as I also wrote in this week’s Herald, I have created a local Plastic-Free Pledge, which invites both individuals and businesses to commit to using less single-use plastic in our everyday lives. From decreasing the use of plastic water bottles and coffee cups, to cutting down on plastic waste around the house, there is so much that can– and I know is being– done. I really want to understand more about the sorts of plastics that people are cutting down on and how they are doing it, and I am hoping to visit local businesses and schools to hear about how they are getting on. So please do take a look at the pledge and participate: https://www.jeremyhunt.org/plastic-free-pledge-2023.
SURGERY CALLS My first call was a lady from Bramley about rogue managing agents which is an issue for many landlords who depend on property income. She has had an incredibly difficult time with an agent who overcharged her repeatedly including anonymous threats. I said I would talk to Michael Gove about what protections are provided by the law and where it could be strengthened. I then spoke to a Frensham resident about getting a visa for his step-daughter in a heart-rending situation which I hope can be resolved as soon as possible.
FARNBOROUGH AIRPORT Farnborough Airport has opened a consultation on its proposals to change the way the airport is operated, which will remain open until 18th October. This includes its proposals on changes to flight limits and to operating hours on non-weekdays. They will also be hosting several drop-in consultation events during this time. I know many constituents are concerned about the proposals so do take a look at the consultation here.
BINSCOMBE CRESCENT I noticed on Farncombe Community Page that there is currently a petition to get the speed limit on Binscombe Crescent changed to a maximum of 20 mph and/or add speed bumps following several traffic-related incidents– including damage to property and the death of a pet. I know this is very important to local residents so do sign the petition here.
BOOTS Thank you to those who have contacted me about the Boots closure in Farncombe. I have planned another catch-up about this with the CEO of Boots, Sebastian James, so will let you know once I have any updates.
FLY-TIPPING THURSLEY I have received reports of fly-tipping of tyres in Thursley, which I will keep an eye on as this is definitely a frustrating issue for anyone local to the area.
KNOWLE PARK The Hunt family enjoyed a great trip to Knowle Park last Sunday– what a fantastic asset for the Cranleigh community. Just a note– dogs must definitely be on the lead. Thank you to those who pointed this out to me!
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AND FINALLY… The Teddy Bear Picnic nursery rhyme might have to be rewritten in Alaska where bears seem to be fans of Krispy Kreme doughnuts!