WELCOME TO MY WEEKLY UPDATE NO.248.
Parliament has now risen for Christmas recess and as we come to the end of the year I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a brief look back at the year. We will pause this newsletter until the New Year but in the meantime I hope everyone has a peaceful and restful Christmas.
THIS YEAR IN WESTMINSTER
INFLATION As you know, my top priority as Chancellor has been to tackle inflation which was 11.1% when I took over and has created massive pressure on family finances. Since then it has halved since the start of this year and now fallen this week to 3.9% - a much bigger fall than markets were expecting. This is a very positive way to end the year. However the job is not yet done and many families are still feeling pressure from price rises. So next month’s 2% cut in National Insurance (worth £450 to someone on average earnings) will, I hope, offer additional support, as I say in this video.
CHILDCARE One of my proudest moments this year was announcing the biggest expansion of childcare in British history in my Spring Budget. As of April this coming year, 15 hours’ free childcare will be extended to 2 year olds, and in September that will also extend to children aged 9 to 23 months. We will then have one of the most comprehensive packages of childcare support in Europe - and because it will bring around 100,000 young parents back into the labour market it is also good for economic growth.
NHS LONG-TERM WORKFORCE PLAN As a backbencher, I spent much of my time campaigning for a Long-Term Workforce Plan for the NHS (even writing a book about it called Zero (still time for that stocking filler!), so it was another highlight for me personally when the government published it in June. The plan will double the number of doctors we train and nearly double the number of nurses we train, but also focuses on staff retention and reforms to how they work using technology to free up time for caring for patients. It could mean we have an extra 60,000 doctors and 170,000 more nurses in place in the next 15 years (on top of the 17,000 doctors and 50,000 more nurses since 2019) and is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
AUTUMN STATEMENT TO REWARD WORKERS As touched on above one of the other most important measures I announced was a cut in the main rate of National Insurance from 12% to 10%. It amounts to a tax cut of on average £450 next year for 27 million working people across the country starting on 6th January – so in just over two weeks. I also announced that the National Living Wage will go up to £11.44 per hour, meaning that the incomes of those on the lowest legally payable wage will have gone up by 30% real terms after tax compared to 2010. This is designed to make work pay - and is one of the reasons unemployment has fallen by a million over the last 13 years. The additional people that will go into work as a result will fill around one in ten of all vacancies in the economy - so a strong pro-growth measure too.
THIS YEAR IN SURREY
THAMES WATER For Godalming, Bramley and surrounds the water outage in November will be one of the more frustrating memories of 2023. Last Friday I chaired the Thames Water public meeting which Angela Richardson MP and I organised. Joint Interim CEO Al Cochran attended with two members of his team– there is a recording of the meeting here.
There were a few important takeaways from the evening. There was an apology - which I think was sincere. More worryingly though the root cause of the outage, which was a power fluctuation caused by Storm Ciaran, has not been solved and they are not yet clear which technical solution could lead to an uninterrupted power supply. Until this is fixed, exactly the same thing could happen in a future storm - so we need this sorted fast. The question of compensation was raised at length – Thames Water asked if you could contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org if you do not feel you have received the correct level of compensation. Please do also email my team on email@example.com who will be happy to follow up on your behalf.
I’ve decided that the only way to sort these issues is another public meeting which TW has agreed to do in March, by which time there will be a new CEO - Chris Weston. We will make sure he comes back with some proper answers. I do think Thames Water were very chastened by the anger at the poor communications throughout the crisis. I wrote a letter to them on Tuesday on all of this, which you can see here.
CANCER CENTRE AT £400k+ AND COUNTING… After sweating through TWO marathons (and at 57 I am getting on!) I was delighted to hear that our total fundraising for the Royal Surrey Cancer & Surgical Innovation Campaign has passed £400k. We had a wonderful Christmas event at Weydon School at which another £40,000 was presented - a wonderful end to the year. Huge thanks must go to everyone who has contributed, sponsored, organised and helped out at the many events and fundraisers during 2023, especially Judith Storey. We've still a long way to go though - to make a Christmas donation please visit:
GREEN SPACES CAMPAIGN- SURREY HILLS NATIONAL PARK With the recent announcement that there will be a search for a new national park next year, I am ramping up my campaign to make sure the Surrey Hills are chosen. It was great to be supported by my Surrey Cabinet colleagues Claire Coutinho (Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero) and Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities) in this campaign. Click here to see a picture of us speaking to Environment Secretary Steve Barclay after Cabinet this week and please sign my petition here if you agree. In the meantime, I have been working closely with Natural England who held a consultation on whether to extend the current protected area and the responses to that are under review – fingers crossed that they agree…
HASLEMERE BANKING HUB When Haslemere lost its last bank I worked hard with the Town Council to find a solution for people who need to visit a bank in person. Now on the site of the former Lloyds we have a brilliant Banking Hub, manned jointly by the big banks and the Post Office. Great solution - and I was happy to be at the ribbon cutting last Friday.
UK CIVIL RESPONSE UK Civil Response, based at Dunsfold Aerodrome, is a small local charity that wants to train reservists to help with civil contingencies (flooding, fire etc) so that the army doesn’t have to be called in. Such a good idea and a pleasure to meet Steve and his enthusiastic team.
LOCAL ROUNDUP A big thank you to my brilliant team in Hindhead at the end of the year. They have helped organise numerous litterpicks and surgeries, as well as visits to local schools, businesses, and charities throughout the year. We have sent 13,500 emails (and counting!) to those who get in touch with the office asking for help on a huge range of topics – from visas and school troubles to potholes and health concerns. I have met over 300 constituents who attended tours of Parliament and look forward to that continuing next year. And 8,000 people receive this weekly newsletter! It is an absolute privilege to be able to represent you in Westminster and I will continue to put my all into the job next year. As always, if you ever have any issues and you think I might be able to help, please do not hesitate to contact the office in Hindhead or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
JOIN ME Want to get more involved locally? Email me at email@example.com to join my growing team supporting our work in our community.
AND FINALLY… The Hunt children (and adults!) are looking forward to opening presents next week but let’s hope there are no unwanted surprises found in our Christmas tree like this one!